How to make meetings more effective

I recently ran a planning session for a client.  During the process, we begin the first day by reviewing our “Starts, Stops and Keeps.” One “Stop” that came up several times was to stop having too many ineffective meetings. This is an issue we have all experienced at one time or another, yet despite numerous books written on the subject – running effective meetings often seems elusive. 

Clearly there is not one answer, but here is a list of ideas that can improve the effectiveness of your meetings:

  1. Question whether or not you really need to hold the meeting.
  2. Allow sufficient time to schedule the meeting so the right individuals are available to attend.
  3. Only invite the individuals that really need to be there.
  4. If someone does not need to attend the entire meeting, give them the opportunity to exit at the appropriate time.
  5. Face to face meetings are valuable, but utilising technology, such zoom, calls can be more efficient.
  6. Ask attendees to come prepared by thinking about the agenda items beforehand, bringing data, or doing the necessary research to make the meeting productive.
  7. Set the ground rules up front, like turning off mobile phones and eliminating other distractions.
  8. Consider whether the meeting should be held off site.
  9. Publish an agenda and begin with the end in mind to determine what the meeting should achieve.
  10. Start on time and stop on time, if not before
  11. Do not speak unless you can add value to the conversation. However, do discuss, debate and agree to move the meeting along and ensure people are being heard.
  12.  Do not let one individual dominate the meeting.
  13.  Assign someone to take minutes.
  14.  Assign action items to individuals that state “Who, What and When” to move the work forward.
  15. Assign a ‘car park attendant’ who captures points that are not part of the agenda for discussion at a later date.
  16.  Stick to the agenda and do not go off on tangents.
  17.  Consider stand up meetings to encourage shorter meetings.
  18.  Do not let the meeting turn into a ‘monafest’ session or one based on negativity.
  19.  Be respectful of others in the meeting.
  20.  There are no bad ideas, but do be thoughtful before you speak and be on point.
  21.  Pay present and stay engaged.
  22.  Try Edward De Bono’s   “Six Thinking Hats” to get everyone thinking in a parallel fashion, rather than debating every idea that is presented.
  23.  Use appropriate visual aids to promote clarity around discussions.  
  24.  Send a report out at the end of the meeting to capture key take aways.
  25.  Do a “plus minus exercise” before breaking to debrief on what improvements you can make at the next meeting.


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