Often known as ‘the thing you do when you’re not sure what you need to do’ – meetings can be a really productive gathering of specific people, or a total waste of time, effort and energy.
Read our quick guide, with our free template, to help you get the most from your meetings.
Let’s make this snappy.
There are three things to consider when having a meeting crosses your mind.
1. Pre-meeting work
2. The meeting
3. Post-meeting work
Every single meeting has these three parts. If you miss one of these parts then your meeting won’t be anywhere near as useful as it should be.
The first step is to work out what the ideal outcome of your meeting is. Before a meeting there are many ways it could end – imagine the ideal outcome you are trying to create. Then consider the purpose of the meeting – why is the ideal outcome important?
Now you’ve got a basic justification to hold a meeting, consider how long it will take to prepare, attend and follow-up. Be honest.
With this information at your fingertips, is there a quicker or better way to reach your ideal outcome instead of holding a meeting?
A meeting can be very disruptive. It can break the flow of work. It can take people away from high priority work.
As soon as you justify that a meeting is essential you must make it clear to everyone attending why they are there, how the meeting will be useful to them and how they should participate.
Write down the agenda items.
These should itemise the key points for your meeting. Be lean. Only include topics for discussion that are relevant. Be as specific as you can to make sure your attendees can prepare accordingly and contribute properly. Where possible add a duration for each topic, and stick to it through the meeting.
Share the agenda with your attendees ahead of the meeting.
Consider how the meeting might go.
Are there are sticky issues? Are there any character conflicts likely? Is there anything else to prepare for? If you need to have a few conversations with attendees before the meeting to make sure the meeting flows properly, then do so.
Share the meeting details.
Let attendees know the time, location, attendee list and duration of the meeting. In terms of the location, ideally choose somewhere that is the most convenient and has the right ambience to foster a good meeting. Also let them know who will run the meeting.
Also consider any other arrangements, such as food, security / access requirements / parking / host details.
When the meeting comes around make sure you’re there a little early. give yourself time to get into the right frame of mind.
Breathe smoothly, smile, focus on being helpful and stand tall. This little regime helps by using your posture, behaviour and breathing to get into the zone.
Welcome everyone to the meeting. Take your seat.
Make a note of when the meeting actually starts, who is there, and when it wraps up.
Make notes from the meeting. Record the notes alongside the agenda items and make sure that you include things that affect decisions. Some meeting records only include the latest situation, without any detail about why that situation has arisen. Add a little context to flesh out why things are as they are.
Discuss each of your agenda items. Remember to cover each item and aim for your ideal outcome.
Make a note of any actions that are relevant. This should include what the action is, why it is needed, who is responsible for it and when it is planned to be completed. Agree the actions in the meeting.
After the meeting review how well it went. Consider what went well and what could have been better.
Review the list of actions and send them out to the attendees.
Review how long the whole meeting took to complete. How long did it take to prepare, attend and follow-up? Was that time well spent? Was the ideal outcome achieved, or is it meaningfully closer to being achieved?
Our free template
To help provide some helpful project management structure to your next meeting, please use our free template.
The template is arranged as per our summary, with ‘pre-meeting, ‘the meeting’ and ‘post-meeting’ sections.
We’d love to hear how it helps your meetings in the future!
Drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org