We’ve all been there – the meeting took an unexpected turn leading to a long discussion about something important but off-topic and now your whole schedule is thrown off. One long meeting means you’re late for another and all of a sudden it starts to reflect poorly on your professionalism – but not all hope is lost! Even if you have back-to-back meetings all day, you can still run them quickly and effectively while remaining extremely productive if you follow these simple tips.
Start on Time
While punctuality is important, it’s more important that you reward those for showing up on time by respecting their schedules and starting proceedings. Also, don’t waste time recapping for people who arrive late. They’ll quickly gather that arriving late will only put them behind the eight ball. If you’re going to be late, let the other attendees know as soon as possible so they aren’t left in the lurch.
Have an Agenda
There’s nothing worse than a meeting just for the sake of it! Go into your meetings with a clear plan. An agenda will provide a framework and will also help you keep to time. If there are points on the agenda that aren’t tackled then assess their value and set a follow-up meeting to cover them.
Be Clear About Decision-makers
At the start of the meeting, choose how decisions will get made – whether the meeting leader will own the responsibility or if a vote or consensus between the attendees will decide. This creates clarity about how people should present relevant information and lets people know how their input will affect the meeting’s outcome.
Further, all decisions should answer two questions: where are we going and how are we going to get there? Don’t let the conversation fall into vague discussions about ancillary details. Keep all points clear and focus the discussion on practical outcomes.
While you should keep focus, remember that people’s attention spans are finite and it’s likely someone will want to contribute off-topic. Their contribution might have some relevance to the problem at large, but you need to limit the time it takes up in order to achieve the purpose of your meeting. Recognise the attendee’s contribution and affirm its value, but remind everyone of the time constraints and that you’ll return to the idea at a later time. Remember to actually revisit those ideas, otherwise you’ll send a message that those ideas are unimportant and people will feel marginalised.
Take a moment to celebrate individual and team accomplishments. Always leave time for laughter and relationship development – you are human, after all. This an important stress reliever, and it also helps develop strong relationships with your colleagues and instils a sense of camaraderie, which will make all future meetings run smoother and efficiently because people will genuinely engage with them.
If possible, wrap up the meeting five minutes early and spend that time digesting and preparing yourself mentally for the next job. It’ll make you more present and focused for the upcoming task.
Meetings don’t need to take over your day completely. You can always be in control – you just need to stay on top of the clock to get the most out of it.