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10 Tips for More Effective Meetings

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 14:00
More Effective Meetings

West Unified Communications' employees are located all over the world and meetings are held online instead of in a conference room much of the time. While online meetings are the next best thing to being face-to-face, talking to your computer screen creates a different meeting dynamic than when you are staring at someone from across the table. So, I figured I could probably learn a few things if I attend the Facilitating Effective Team Meetings class.

According to a recent Microsoft survey of 38,000 workers in 200 countries, 5.6 hours each week are spent in meetings and 69% feel meetings aren’t productive. While our own data suggest people might be over-reporting meeting fatigue, I’m sure you’ve been to a meeting that you felt was a total waste of time because the host wasn’t prepared - there was no clear agenda or no one could stop talking about the topic that was supposed to be ‘taken offline.’

Here are some helpful tips I learned that you can use to make your meetings more productive.

1. Know why you’re having the meeting and your expected outcomes

Don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. Have a purpose and know what you want to accomplish.

2. Build an agenda with time allocations

Identify the areas you want to focus on and how much time you’ll spend on each topic. Send this out prior to the meeting to all the participants so your meeting stays on track.

3. Establish ground rules

Let people know what you expect from them (stick to the time allocations, full participation, etc.) and review the agenda.

4. Designate a note taker and timekeeper

Stay focused on leading the meeting and appoint others to take notes and watch the time. It’s too challenging to try to do it all yourself and your participants will appreciate having your complete attention on the agenda. If you’re using a conference call service, record your meeting so you can go back to it if there are questions.

5. Lead the meeting

Take charge and keep everyone focused. That means shutting down sidebar conversations and asking people to give their opinions.

6. Encourage full participation

Do this by asking directly for feedback, create break-out groups or sub-conferences if you’re all on the phone. If you have on-site and remote participants, make sure to include the remote participants in the discussion.

7. Stay focused

Don’t be afraid to ask people who go off on tangents to save it for another meeting. Your participants will be happy that you’re keeping everyone on task.

8. Summarize to verify agreements and action items

Recap the meeting to make sure everyone knows what was agreed to and who’s responsible for what.

9. Follow-up on assignments and agreements

Send notes so people are reminded of who needs to do what, by when and don’t forget those who missed the meeting. If you recorded the conference, include the playback link for reference.

10. Evaluate your meetings

Ask for feedback from participants and see what you can do differently next time.

I will admit that I haven’t put all of these into practice, but I have started emailing an agenda prior to the meeting and screen sharing it during my web conference. It has actually made a big difference and made my meetings more productive. I’ve also stated sending out notes after the meeting, which really helps keep me organized.

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