Although many workers dread meetings that interrupt their workflow, sometimes these are necessary. To make sure staff meetings are a productive and efficient use of employee time, consider these six tips.
Create an Agenda
A detailed agenda is your first step to an effective meeting. Include the date and time, write out the meeting’s objectives, list out the names of attendees for easy reference, and create a checklist of topics you plan to cover. Be sure to send out your agenda a few days prior to the meeting. This lets attendees know what items are up for discussion so they can prepare talking points or questions. If you’re presenting reports or reading material, give the invitees plenty of time to review them before the meeting date.
Whether you or an invitee is facilitating the meeting, show up on time. Arriving late for a meeting, especially one you called, gives the impression you don’t value or respect your coworkers. If you’re providing handouts, make sure you have enough for everyone. When giving slide presentations, arrive a few minutes before the meeting to make sure all equipment is working properly. You don’t want to keep employees waiting while the computer boots up or you rummage for appropriate files.
To achieve your meeting objectives, everyone in attendance must give their full attention to the topics at hand. If employees have a habit of checking emails, surfing the internet, or playing "Candy Crush" during meetings, make a statement on meeting etiquette or ban technology altogether, including phones, laptops, and tablets. When every participant focuses 100% of their attention, the whole team can accomplish more.
Keep the Meeting on Track
As the facilitator, it’s your job to make sure the meeting sticks to the agenda. Give everyone a chance to express their thoughts. If one employee tries to monopolize the meeting, ask them to let others provide input. When members of your team start to veer off-topic, steer the conversation back on track. Should tensions arise or tempers flair, act as a mediator. Also, when you have guest speakers slated to present, give them a fixed amount of speaking time so you can cover all agenda items.
End on Time
Just as it’s essential to start your meeting on time, it’s crucial to end it promptly. When employees know you’re a punctual facilitator who values their time, they’re more likely to attend your meetings. Try to limit meetings to 60 minutes, since employees get restless and lose focus beyond this point. For meetings that must be longer, schedule time for a break.
Write up meeting minutes, and send them out to all participants within 24 hours of your meeting’s end. Include all action items discussed during the meeting, list any tasks delegated to specific employees, and note deadlines. These measures ensure everyone is on the same page and has a record of the meeting.
Meetings don’t have to be a chore. When you show respect to employees and encourage focus, you can hold productive meetings that more than justify their time.