Hold Meetings No One Dreads

We’ve all sat through well-organized, productive meetings during our careers — ones in which you leave feeling accomplished. I also bet you’ve suffered through your fair share of unproductive, inefficient ones — meetings in which you find yourself thinking about anything but the task at hand, like what delicious meal you’re going to cook for dinner, how you skipped your morning workout (again) and all the things you could be accomplishing instead of sitting there.

While we can’t control everyone else, we can ensure that we are never responsible for holding meetings that make people wish they were anywhere but there. Here are some tips to run your best meeting every time.

Planning Your Best Meeting

  • Consider your attendees. There are few things worse than sitting through a meeting that’s completely irrelevant to your job function. Look over your proposed invite list and make sure that each of those people needs to be present.

  • Send all details the first time. In your meeting invitation or email, be sure to include everything your attendees need. Check and double check so you won’t have to send multiple follow-up messages.

  • Prepare an agenda. Every well-planned trip requires a travel route, and every well-planned meeting comes with an agenda. Plan it out and share it before the meeting — bonus points for attaching it to your meeting invite!

  • Plan speakers. If others will be addressing your group, chat with them ahead of time to discuss topics to be covered, materials needed and the length of their talk.

  • Set the room up for success. If you’re able, give your attendees everything they need at their seats. Arrange seats for the meeting function. Provide notepads, pens, etc. so no one will have to run out to retrieve items they may have forgotten.

Tips for Running Your Best Meeting

  • Begin on time. You don’t want your attendees starting the meeting in frustration because you’re running 10 minutes behind. Set out on the right foot and be prompt.

  • Silence devices. Ask everyone to put away and silence any devices not needed for the meeting. Note that the meeting will be more effective and end on time with fewer distractions and everyone on task.

  • Set the expectations up front. Briefly go through your agenda at the start. Mention when you would like to hear questions and when additional speakers can chime in. Note who will be keeping the minutes or notes and how they will be distributed.

  • Don’t be derailed. Handle digressers and Chatty Cathy (or Charles) gently but firmly. Always use your agenda as a tool to redirect people’s attention to the meeting plan. You can offer to hear them out at the end or one-on-one at a later time.

  • Delegate clearly. As you discuss each point, be sure to tag someone for follow-up. Reaffirm that they have the item for action.

  • Set up the next meeting time. While you have everyone there, decide upon the next meeting date and time.

Tips for Meeting Follow-up

  • Send thorough minutes. After drafting your minutes, review them and ask yourself, “If someone wasn’t there, could he or she get a clear picture of what transpired?” Be specific and concise, and list action items, responsible parties and deadlines. Remind everyone of the next meeting date, as well.

  • Solicit feedback. Ask attendees if there is anything they would like to see changed. Be open to suggestions and use them as an opportunity for growth.

Perhaps these suggested practices sound fairly obvious, but you would be surprised how easy it is to overlook or forget the basics and let your meetings slip into chaos or counter-productivity. Don’t be the meeting facilitator who allows this to happen. Be the one who runs efficient, effective meetings. Be the leader.

by Erin Pittman, Associate Writer for All Things Writing, LLC

Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, has been writing, editing and teaching for more than twenty years. For the past ten years, she has focused on content development and content marketing for small to mid-size businesses, writing and disseminating material that increases client visibility while supporting their brand. Besides being published in dozens of journals, Katherine has authored five books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water and Bury Me Under a Lilac. Learn more about her creative life at www.KatherineGotthardt.com.