Company meetings are often met with mixed emotions. You want to be included in the discussion, but you don’t want to waste your time in a meeting doing nothing. You have to remember that when you schedule a meeting, your invitees also feel the same way. Your challenge is to invite the correct people to the meeting, make the time spent in a meeting useful to the participants, and provide significant value to the company.
There are some basic rules that make meeting more useful and less painful.
1. Required Meetings
Sometimes people will want to ask someone on a team a few questions about a project, and before they realize it they have scheduled a one hour meeting with 8 people so they can ask two questions. A meeting has a cost in wasted employee time, the cost of a conference room, and lost productivity. You should ask yourself if you really need a meeting or it a simple email would be a better way to ask a question or to communicate basic information.
2. Create an Agenda
When you are creating the meeting request, enter the meeting agenda into the text of the invitation. If you can’t communicate the purpose and agenda of the meeting in that invitation, then you shouldn’t be scheduling the meeting. If you go into a meeting without an agenda, then you are allowing the meeting participants to drive the agenda and you risk wasting everyones time because you aren’t able to control the agenda. While it isn’t always possible to have a formal agenda, you should have a fairly clear list of items you want to discuss, and have the ability to ask non-essential discussions to be held until after your meeting or as part of a second meeting. You want your meeting to have a definite structure, communicated in advance of the meeting.
3. Established Outcome
You should have a defined outcome that is expected and communicated to the entire meeting group. The best way to do this is in the invitation, and at the beginning of the actual meeting. If the purpose of the meeting is to get an update on a couple of aspects of a specific project, make sure everyone knows that is the expected outcome of the meeting. Stick to that agenda and before you leave the meeting you want those questions addressed. Everyone that accepted the meeting request understands what is going to be covered and will come prepared to address those issues. If it isn’t part of the agenda, then it shouldn’t be added to the end of the meeting because you have the conference room for another ten minutes. If everyone covers the meeting agenda in just 30 minutes, then congratulate the group and end the meeting ahead of schedule.
4. Never Be Late
You should never be late to a meeting, especially if you are the person who scheduled the meeting. Never be late for your own meeting. Never. You have convinced a group of people to take valuable time out of their work schedule to attend your meeting, then they have to sit in a room quietly waiting for you to appear. If you want people to respect your time and agenda, so you have to respect them first.
You also never want your meeting to run late and go past the scheduled end time. If your meeting is scheduled to end at 10 am, then you should try to end the meeting at 9:50 am. This allows a little room to wrap up the meeting and make sure everyone who wants to make a comment has a minute or two to get in their thoughts, but also shows you value their time and respect their schedule.
5. Ask Questions and Listen
Ask specific questions and listen to the answers. Don’t be waiting for an opportunity to say something or just make a comment. Drive the conversation by keeping the flow of positive information between your meeting participants going. It is fine to sit quietly and listen to the exchange of ideas as long as it is part of the overall meeting agenda. Your focus should be to keep the meeting on target and on time.
Keep the meeting on target. If it isn’t part of the original agenda, then move the conversation back to the agenda or end the meeting. Meeting are intended to be places that encourage a positive exchange of ideas, but if you can’t get that done then just end the meeting and thank everyone for their time.
7. Share the Time
If the purpose of the meeting is for you to speak to the team, then make sure that is the stated agenda. After you have made your statements, always ask if anyone has any comments or questions. If you aren’t interested in hearing questions or comments, then you should have just sent an email statement and saved everyone the trouble of attending the meeting. Always make time in the schedule for people to ask questions. If there isn’t enough time to answer the question within the allotted time, release the group after you announce you will either stay around to complete the answer or that you will email the group with the answer later in the day.
8. Avoid Lunch Meetings
Even if you are willing to buy lunch for the entire team, I might still have plans that make it difficult to stick around during lunch to attend your meeting. Avoid scheduling meetings around the normal time range for lunch. This goes back to respecting everyones schedule.
9. No Cellphone
All attendees should respect everyones time and silence their mobile devices. You also have to realize that not everyone can provide undivided attention because of other responsibilities. Keep the meeting brief, stick to the agenda, and respect everyones time and you will have better meeting and happier attendees.
If you disagree with these rules, or think we should add additional items, let me know in the comments.