I know, you think you’ve got running meetings down already. Or maybe you wish you never had to attend another unproductive meeting again. Either way, this article is for you (it’s at least a good checklist).
Even with intentional and purposeful planning, a sizeable portion of your week can still be spent in meetings. This is where ideas are discussed and decisions are made. It makes a lot of sense then to hone in on exactly what makes one successful and what makes one bleak and disastrous (you know the difference; you’ve seen it).
Here are Hüify’s 6 secrets on how to ensure every meeting has a great chance at being productive.
1. Create and Send an Agenda the Day Before
Agendas must be well thought-out and should only contain the most important priority items.
How many times have you spent time on something unproductive and had to rush through updates on a call? Many. People love talking (and chatting and arguing) about stuff you didn’t anticipate. Which means that you should overestimate time for discussion items and come prepared with a plan for the conversation.
If you are leading the meeting, it is your job have control over such conversations. Don’t be afraid to use the agenda to focus people’s attention and prioritize. If something comes up, determine if it’s a higher priority than what you came to discuss. You can always schedule other calls to work out minor details or talk over Slack.
Updates should be sent out ahead of time if possible, but shouldn’t be discussed during meeting times. Those can be sent over email or Slack. Use your precious time together to get feedback and discuss opinions, not on lists and links someone wants in writing for later reference anyway.
Pro-tip: We use google docs to collaborate internally, and use view/comment mode to make sure the agenda items are kept under control.
2. Start and End Meeting On Time
Gradually begin to enforce a strict starting and ending time for your meetings. It’s more important than you might think because people subliminally catch on to a lax schedule. This begins to affect not only when your meetings take place, but how they take place.
Show every attendee that you’re serious about adhering to a timely schedule, and it will force everyone to respect the agenda and to move through it efficiently. They just might hold that minor thought if they can expect the meeting to be over at the top of the hour.
Pro-tip: Set up a weekly meeting calendar event and set reminder notifications.
3. Get Face-to-Face
Ours is a digital, virtual world, so we don’t always have the luxury of meeting in-person. You can get face-to-face with video chat software, though.
Doing so presents invaluable benefits over traditional phone calls because so much of communication relies on visual cues. Meetings run much more quickly and effectively because we can see reactions on someone’s face to what we have just said. We can also plainly see when someone has a thought or is waiting to jump in and speak.
Video chatting also adds a new dynamic to your business relationships. It builds them stronger because seeing a living, breathing human in front of you changes the way the conversation flows tremendously. We see a huge difference: people are more understanding, and they remain interested and engaged in the conversation since they cannot zone out without being noticed.
Pro-tip: We use Zoom as our main video conferencing software, and Zoom’s quick call video feature is awesome too.
4. Invite the Right People
This one goes in two directions: inviting too many people and not inviting enough.
Everyone remember that classic microeconomics example of diminishing returns? You know, where you keep increasing the number of cooks in the kitchen to a certain point, at which point adding more just results in them messily running into each other? Yeah. It’s even more of a shame since those cooks could be doing wonderfully elsewhere.
Inviting too many people to the call deceases efficiency, makes the meeting unorganized, and runs the risk of those people being disinterested in the goals of the meeting.
At the other end of the spectrum, having a situation where someone’s advice or input is crucial and them not being there is also unproductive. All involved parties should be there. You need all the decision-makers to make decisions and resharing information is just a waste of time.
Pro-tip: Be upfront about what each meeting's purpose is so everyone can understand who needs to be (and who doesn’t need to be) involved.
5. Send Any Materials for Requested Feedback Prior to the Meeting
Want feedback on something or to discuss an idea? Send the document, report, or brief prior to the meeting taking place. This gives everyone the chance to digest the material and compile their thoughts on the matter beforehand. This way, you allow their opinions and responses to be informed.
It’s difficult to consider many variables on the spot when asked an unprompted question. Even moreso when it’s a weighty question about an email strategy or about a 15-page report. Developing sophisticated answers to questions such as these require time and preparation from everyone.
Pro-tip: Google docs comes in clutch again. You can see when someone is looking at something and it makes for easy real-time editing and collaboration.
6. Send Recaps
This might just be one of the most important things (hence, why we saved it for last). Highlighting action items assigned to each attendee is imperative to everyone being on the same page.
That being said, what do you include and what do you omit? We prefer to keep notes from the meeting to ourselves, instead emphasizing the action items along with any big, high-level decisions that were made. This keeps it pertinent and prioritized.
Recaps are divided into two sections: “Client deliverables” and “Hüify deliverables,” so that each party can quickly find what they are responsible for before the next meeting. It also makes it easy to send out those agendas and updates beforehand.
Sending recaps also guides our meeting structure. We continually ask ourselves, “What’s the action item here?” which keeps us on track and focused. It also helps us navigate and reign in the conversation when it does get out of hand. If it’s not contributing to the recap, is it really necessary for this space in this time? Probably not.
Pro-tip: Have the person taking notes be responsible for the recaps. Bold action items as you go along to make this process efficient.
It took us some time to figure out what best practices for client meetings looked like, but now with efficient, effective meetings we can focus on what really matters––the results.
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