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I don’t know about you, but how many times have you sat in a meeting…and 20 minutes into the meeting, you’re thinking, “Why are we here? What’s the end game?” Been there. Done that. Too many times.
If you take time beforehand to plan and strategize what you need out of the meeting, the results will be awesome…and time well spent. The catch is this: YOU GOTTA PLAN.
I’ve jotted down a few steps I use to make sure my meetings are thoughtful, well executed, and have an end outcome or action plan.
1. Draft an agenda. This doesn’t have to be fancy with tons of bullet points, unless that’s what you need for your meeting. An agenda is sheerly a mechanism to keep the discussion on track.
Depending on the group, I will sometimes time an agenda. This means, each presenter on the agenda has an allocated time they have to address the group. This really does help hone in the message of “keep it simple and to the point” to those long-winded-like-to-hear-myself-talk-types.
2. Determine your agenda items. I always put the basics on the actual agenda itself…like the date, time and meeting location. I find that a lot of executive assistants will actually copy and paste the meeting information onto an Outlook calendar invite, just so people are reminded why you’re meeting (and it’s quick, easy access to review on a mobile device).
Include key items you need to discuss with a group, but keep your agenda items brief in nature.
Also (and this is a big one), list what you want to achieve from the meeting…what is the end goal? The last thing anyone wants to do is to sit in a meeting for an hour just to pontificate. Determine ahead of time what you want to achieve, and make sure everyone understands that goal.
3. Distribute the agenda BEFORE your meeting so your group knows what to expect. This is an important step (and often overlooked).
Distribute your agenda about a day or so before the meeting. This helps frame the context of your meeting and allows the group the opportunity to get their head wrapped around the items to discuss. This way, when you get to the meeting – everyone is mentally prepared for the discussion.
4. Keep the discussion focused. This sounds so incredibly simple, yet dang, it can be so hard. If you’re the meeting facilitator, it’s up to you to keep the discussion focused on the agenda and your end goal.
This means sometimes you have to “reel in” those folks who just like to ramble on and on and on. I’ve actually had to (in a very nice and gentle way, of course!) cut someone off and ask them to get back on track with the topic. Always appreciate people and what they bring to the table as far as their comments (that’s the nice way of getting them to hush)…but, in order to keep everyone focused and not on their phones checking their Instagram feed…you must keep the focus.
Believe me. People will be so grateful for your leadership and will keep accepting meeting invites if they know you’ve got it together.
5. Stay true to the allotted time for your meeting (and don’t cancel…unless it’s absolutely necessary). If you say your meeting will be an hour – keep it an hour. This means that even if the discussion isn’t quite finished, you respect everyone’s time and end the meeting and schedule another to finish up the discussion.
There you have it! My two cents to host an awesome meeting that will keep colleagues coming back for more!