Tips and Tricks

December 20, 2017 By Jen Mathews

Host Better Meetings in 4 Simple Steps

December 20, 2017

By Jen Mathews

Read More from Jen Mathews

December 20, 2017

Host Better Meetings in 4 Simple Steps

By Jen Mathews
Senior Public Relations Manager

Meetings. They can go either way, can’t they?

The good ones can lead to amazing things: making significant progress on important projects, building team cohesion and chemistry, boosting your attendees’ enthusiasm and energy levels, and even cranking out great ideas with your team.

But the bad ones? Well they can be really bad… They accomplish nothing, sap your team’s energy, and leave your attendees wishing they’d called in sick. Even worse, according to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review, getting stuck repeatedly in lousy company or team meetings can lower employees’ overall job satisfaction.

Meetings can go wrong for lots of reasons. But most of the terrible company or staff meetings you’ve attended in your career — you know, the ones where you spent the whole time secretly thinking of how to sneak out — have a few traits in common. They’re unfocused, they lack clear objectives, and the host fails to keep the discussion on topic. In short, your attendees feel like they’re wasting their time.

If you host meetings — whether with all attendees onsite or with many or all joining remotely — these simple four tips can help you significantly improve the quality of those meetings as well as the value you and your team get out of them.

1. Invite only people who are essential to the meeting.

This is important for two reasons. First, although it’s easy to forget, if you call a one-hour meeting with you and your seven-person team to discuss the upcoming event, that’s costing not one hour, but at least eight hours of team and company time.

That one-hour meeting requires an hour from each of your seven attendees, plus an hour of your time as host, plus the time you’ll spend preparing a detailed agenda beforehand. (And you do need to spend time on an agenda beforehand — more on that below.)

The second reason it’s important — mission-critical, actually — to invite only the right people is that if you’re casual about who joins, you’ll increase the chances of losing focus, introducing off-topic discussions and encouraging some of those “optional” attendees to speak because they feel they should, even if they don’t have anything relevant to contribute.

2. Draft a detailed agenda — and send it with your invitation.

Preparing a detailed agenda, and including it with your meeting invite, accomplishes several positive things before your meeting even begins.

It lets your attendees know in advance exactly what the meeting will cover — so they have a chance to prepare beforehand and bring their A-game. It forces you to think through the key topics to address, your objectives for the discussion, etc. — so you help ensure a more focused, more productive meeting. And, more subtly, it sends an important message to your invitees that you respect their time and are taking steps to make sure this meeting is worthwhile for them.

Don’t have time to draft a detailed agenda? Then at least create a short of list of key objectives — “Our meeting will be a success if…” — and include that in your invitation.

3. Keep the meeting focused, and steer attendees back if they veer off-topic.

Assuming you developed the right agenda beforehand — one that establishes a clear structure and set of objectives for your meeting — your primary role as the host during the meeting itself will be to make sure your team works its way through that agenda, and that they stay on track.

One related tip here is to set up an idea parking lot — either on a whiteboard in the room, or with a screen-sharing tool for your online meeting — and assign an attendee to record those ideas, so you can capture them quickly and then get your team back to your meeting’s agenda.

4. Send out a post-meeting recap of all important takeaways and tasks.

After the meeting, draft a short summary of the major takeaways, including:

  • All action items, including the individuals assigned to them and their deadlines
  • All decisions made in the meeting, so everyone is clear on what the team agreed to
  • All open questions and plans for follow-up

This way, you’re ensuring nobody comes away from your meetings unclear about what if anything is expected of them or what decisions your team made.

There’s also a great side benefit: When you take the time to draft and send out these post-meeting recaps, you’re sending yet another positive signal to your team that you respect their time and want to make sure they have all the information they need to be successful.