The Art of Efficient Meetings
By Karin Eldor
Meetings. They have become a daily distraction. While it’s progressive (and appreciated!) that companies are more open to flexible schedules and working from home, the need to work collaboratively still exists. Add contract workers and agencies to the mix, and having efficient meetings becomes a more complicated endeavour.
Why do meetings get such a bad rap? Because they either run too long, seem to go nowhere, and lead to the attendees wishing they had their hour(s) back.
So let’s flip the script and make meetings more productive and positive, once and for all.
Here is your guide to effective and efficient meetings, no matter which end of the table you sit at.
General meetings: rules of the game
Bookmark this guide for easy reference and share it with your coworkers so they know the rules too. (Hey, if there are some offenders on your team, do everyone a favour and forward this. Sharing is caring.)
Let’s do this.
Do send an agenda and stick to it
People like to know what the meeting is about in advance to ensure they need to be there and be prepared for the discussion. As the meeting owner, you need to steer and manage it accordingly. If attendees start bringing up points that aren’t relevant, “park” their comments by writing them on a board (if there is one), or in your laptop or notebook. Circle back to these points if the meeting ends early and/or send them in a recap email.
It’s also best practice to end meetings at the “:50” mark, to accommodate attendees with overbooked calendars. Think carefully about how long the meeting really needs to be. If you’re scheduling a meeting for more than one hour, you need a good reason for it.
Do send a recap
If possible, send a meeting recap to all those who attended (and CC those who couldn’t make it, to still keep them looped in). Make sure to highlight any follow-up or action items and important agreed-upon dates.
Don’t be late
Being late to a meeting as an attendee is frowned upon. Being late to a meeting that you “own” is an absolute no-no. To make sure you’re on time and everything runs smoothly, be 10 minutes early to check that the room you booked is actually available and that all (possibly necessary) tech equipment is there and functional.
And finally, do ask yourself: Is this meeting necessary?
Before sending the meeting request, ask yourself this: is this meeting a priority, or can the issue be resolved via email instead? For sure, sometimes face-to-face / verbal check-ins are appropriate. And meetings are necessary to kick-off a big project or resolve an issue as a team and reach a consensus. Think about it.
Knowing how to properly manage meetings is a leadership skill appreciated by all. And on the flipside, if you are constantly invited to back-to-back meetings and need to get some productive work done, David Grady offers the best advice yet in his TED Talk:
Reply with “maybe.”
If the meeting’s objective and agenda are unclear, contact the meeting owner and ask for more details and whether you need to be there. You’ll soon discover that more than half the meetings you were invited to are no longer a priority for you.
In the next chapter of this series, we’ll tackle a particularly pesky type of meeting: the brainstorm session.
What tips have you applied to manage successful meetings? We'd love to know!