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5 Ways To Make Meetings Meaningful

5 Ways To Make Meetings Meaningful

Start with clear goals, limit attendees, enforce a 30-minute time limit, use visual aids, and follow up quickly to enhance meeting productivity and engagement.

Have a Goal

A clearly stated goal that can be achieved within the framework of the meeting is a necessary element of productive communication. If the goal of the meeting is clear and understood by all the participants, then most likely they will try to prepare accordingly. According to the Harvard Business Review , specific goals make meetings shorter by 30% and more. For example, if the goal is to find one or more steps to advance the project, then supporting information should be presented at the start of the meeting. Clearly explain what is known about the project and, if possible, show the availability and capacity of resources.

Prepare an Agenda

An agenda is a complete plan of action for the meeting time. A proper agenda has a detailed schedule, and each time gradient shows the start and end times of consideration of a particular topic. According to statistics published by Atlassian , a detailed agenda reduces the duration of meetings by 50% because there is no question of overtime. It should be sent to all participants 24 hours before the meeting so that they can prepare questions at worst.

Keep the Meeting Interactive

Even the most useful meeting in the world will not bring a specific result if the participants are not prepared and not involved in discussions. Various options can make the communication process lively and exciting for everyone. For example, interactive segments with surveys can help the group focus. Microsoft Teams provided data showing that interactive segments can increase attentiveness to up to 65%. Collaborative tools can also be used, for example, to build schemes or to take notes from participants in real-time.

Handle the Number of Participants

An excessive number of participants can be ineffective since not everyone can say a word or even remember all the important later. According to information published by Lean Management , the optimal number of people participating in decision-making activities is approximately 4-7. Each participant should have a specific mission or function in the meeting.

Design Courses to Make Meetings Meaningful

Designing a course for making meetings more effective is a matter of strategic planning and logically predefined outcomes. The course should consist of several modules that cover the major aspects of planning and managing meetings, such as setting objectives, creating agendas, paper topics, facilitating discussions, and following up. A well-developed course may also facilitate better teamwork and help people make collaborative decisions more effectively.

 Setting Objectives

The first module should be focused on delivering an understanding of how to set and implement clear, specific, and action-oriented objectives to a meeting. It should include defining the purpose and intent of the meeting, ensuring that one’s goals are in alignment with the organization’s objectives, and informing other attendees of the objectives . This module may include role play concerning how objective setting influences the general tone and outcomes of meetings. This module should include a case describing that meetings’ productivity may increase by nearly 40% if objectives are clear.

Crafting a Meeting Agenda

This module should provide essential examples of how to create a meeting agenda that is precise, concise, and efficient . This will include setting time frames of the scheduled topics, deciding how many or whom should participate in the discussion of one part of the topic, and sending the agenda to the attendees beforehand. The data suggest that if an agenda is followed a meeting may be 20% shorter .

Facilitating Discussions

Developing facilitation skills is also essential to have successful and productive meetings. Content should explain how to be an effective facilitator considering significant issues, such as multiple views on a single topic, involving everyone in the discussion, and using technology for better interaction . This module may include video examples of bad and good practices and the tool “round robin” that helps all participants to contribute equally with a 35% higher success rate.

Follow-Up

The final module should provide an understanding of how to ensure there is a succinct meeting summary followed by assigned tasks, people responsible, and time frames of implementation . Follow-up may increase the chances of task completion by 50% . The content should also include services and templates for writing effective follow-up e-mails that are clear and benefit in getting matters in the meeting completed.

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Effectively Open Meetings

Conducting an effective meeting depends on the way it is opened. In truth, the first few minutes of the meeting largely predetermine its overall success. The strategies for opening a meeting include a powerful introduction, laying down the ground rules, and stating the objectives of the meeting clearly.

Powerful Introduction

Begin by welcoming the participants and make sure to greet everyone quickly. It is especially important if there are new members among the participants. This allows the meeting to become a community and provides comfort. A powerful introduction should include a rather short description of what the meeting is about. The best way to achieve it is by immediately focusing the team on its goals. For example, the project kickoff meeting provides the project manager with an opportunity to state what he or she will aim at during the meeting . Opening a meeting in such a way is critical to ensuring that everyone remains aware of their roles and the meeting’s importance. It can be quite common for a kickoff meeting to begin with its leader briefly articulating the essence of the project and then introducing its team and stakeholders to make sure that everyone knows who the other participants are.

Laying Down the Rules

It is paramount to establish ground rules. Many diverse groups might not share the same type of rules about having meetings, and they should be clearly stated. For example, it is reasonable to ask participants to put their mobile devices on silent and use the “Raise hand” feature to ask a question. Recent Harvard Business School research demonstrates that meetings are more productive when some rules are already in place. Thus, they are shorter by 35% and more likely to begin and end on time . In other words, even the best meeting will last too long if there are no rules regulating it.

State the Objectives Clearly

It is vital to remember to say the meeting’s objectives within a clear and concise statement. It will not only remind the team of the reason they are there. Still, it will also provide a reference point that can allow to measure how ramified the progress was against the objectives. Meetings, where the objectives were clearly stated, do not need follow-ups in 25% of the cases according to MIT research . An objective can be easily stated by saying, “Our primary goal today is to go over the Q3 marketing strategy and make sure we hit each and every target deadline.”

Review and Follow Up

Making sure that meetings always bring actionable results and some measurable progress is based on thorough review and diligent follow-up process, in which it is confirmed that all participants are clear about their responsibilities and deadlines, and that the project or task is moving forward. Effective review and follow-up could contribute to the increased productivity of meetings and higher chances of the set goals to be achieved.

Conduct a Thorough Review

At the end of every meeting, it should be mandatory to conduct a review of what has been discussed and decided. This step could involve many forms, such as summarizing the key points and meeting’s outcomes, or making sure that all participants are on the same page. For instance, a manager could say, “So we have decided to go on with the project and now we have assigned the leads for each task – this will be John with the Neighborhood Review.” The final review will make sure that none of the actions have been misunderstood.

Assign Clear Action Items

During a meeting, it is important to set clear actions for follow-up. This practice is called “Who does what by when?” and implies that all action items must have an owner, as well as a clear deadline. For instance, you may say “John will take the responsibility to complete the budget review by the end of our next Tuesday meeting” – having the owner and the deadline for follow-up are critical. In fact, a vast field testing proves that the meetings that have action items defined and assigned clearly are 70% more likely to be completed compared to those with no-defined and assigned actions.

Send Follow-Up Communications

A detailed follow-up e-mail or another follow-up communicating document are vital. They should communicate decisions of the meeting and assigned action items, including deadlines. This follow-up will have two kinds of use: first of all, a written record will be saved – second, that the participants are reminded of their follow-up actions. Best-practice shows that follow-ups should be provided not later than in 24 hours after the meeting to ensure perfect clarity and no-losing speed.

Close and Enjoy

Especially important to the course of the meeting is its effective conclusion. Closing a session provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved, specify the next steps, and finish on a positive note, thereby improving the overall experience and satisfaction of the event. Thus, the purpose of concluding a session relates to ensuring that the results of the event are attributed in the minds of participants to the emerging productivity perceptions while also keeping a record of decisions made and activities planned.

Summarize Key Decisions and Results

To facilitate closing a meeting, participants can be asked to remain quiet, while a team leader or an assigned member briefly restates the fundamental results. For instance, an interim summary presented by a meeting moderator or leader might be as follows: “So here’s what we have decided today. We agreed to go with a fif teen percent increase in the marketing budget; just make sure you have your revised proposals in by Wednesday done ” . Thus, a brief and clear summary allows avoiding misunderstandings and creates conditions for facilitating the transition to the next steps.

Specify Pending Assignments and Action-Makers

Moreover, before letting participants leave, it is important to present the final distribution of assignments and specify action-makers. An example of a concluding statement regarding an acknowledgment of the person taking the action would be: “Once you close the deal with the South Seas customer, make sure that you then forward the report to me the same afternoon. In addition, Lisa, remember to finalize the sales report by Friday noon” . Thus, the presentation of the final list of responsibilities makes it possible to ensure that all members exit the meeting knowing who is supposed to do what and by when.

Provide Time for Questions and Response

Finally, a time for questions and comments should be provided to avoid any doubts left in the minds of attendees. Moreover, this part serves as an inclusion strategy that allows ensuring that the interest and final ideas of all members help closing the meting that is concluded by a question “Does anyone have other questions before we close?”.

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