Top ten tips for running effective meetings

We’ve all had those weeks where we feel like we’ve been in constant meetings and, probably more than once or twice in your working life, you may have found yourself lamenting to colleagues that: “I’m in meetings so much, I just don’t have enough time to get any actual work done!”

Part of making meetings effective starts right here: with a shift in attitude towards them. If we approach meetings as being outside of the day job, a necessary evil, as opposed to one of several important elements of our work, we’re already on the back foot, with the chances of executing them effectively slim to none.

Meetings are a coming together of minds. An opportunity to exchange ideas, listen, develop thoughts and formulate action plans. With the right planning, management and follow-up, meetings could become one of your most productive activities, as opposed to an obstacle to productivity.

Here are my top ten tips on running effective meetings for maximum value and output:

1. A clear objective

Have a clear meeting objective that is shared ahead and then reiterated at the start of the meeting. If tangents come up, record and pick them up after the meeting to help you stay on track.

2. 50 minute meets

Break the electronic calendar mould and try 50 minute meetings instead of the usual hour. It drives pace, allows people time to refresh before their next activity and helps to keep the focus in the room.

3. Meet on the move

How about walking meetings? Try small group meetings outdoors and on the move for a more creative, inspired output as well as a feel good boost from those natural endorphins.

4. Exit policy

Trial a meetings exit policy where anyone who feels they are neither adding nor gaining value from the meeting has the liberty to leave. It can have quite an impact on active participation.

5. Rule of listening

Run respectful meetings where everyone is listened to with zero tolerance for attendees who talk over people.

6. Device ban

Ban the use of electronic devices, unless there’s a specific purpose for them in the meeting. They’re often nothing but a distraction.

7. Lead by example

So there’s an electronic devices ban policy for company meetings but the CEO gets out his mobile within five minutes? Business leaders have to be on-board with company meeting etiquette otherwise it fails at the first hurdle.

8. Unexpected guests

Think carefully about who you invite to each meeting. Avoid the usual suspects for certain subject areas and get some fresh ideas in the room. It will help move the thinking forward.

9. Great meetings culture

We’ve all heard about companies who have a “meetings culture”. Change the mindset to being one of a “great meetings culture” where every meeting is made to count, otherwise it doesn’t happen.

10. Its a wrap

Clearly summarise the key messages and actions at the end of a meeting to ensure everyone around the table understands what has been agreed before they leave the room.

When time is money, no-one can afford ineffective meetings. Think about these tips the next time you’re both chairing and attending a meeting; you’ll soon see a change in the value it delivers.

The Culture Builders Jane Sparrow

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