The ability to run a productive team meeting is a powerful skill because it allows you to harness the best from everybody in the room and avoid wasting anyone’s time. Productive meetings move projects forward more quickly because teams walk away with both a shared purpose and clearly defined action items.
Learning how to be an effective meeting leader takes practice. Use these eight tips to hone your meeting skills.
1. Know the objective of the meeting
Whether you need to share information in person, gather feedback, brainstorm ideas, or make decisions as a group, make sure everyone in the room knows the objective of the meeting. This might seem obvious, but it’s not uncommon for a standing weekly meeting that was once necessary to remain on the calendar out of habit, even if the meeting is no longer required. If you can’t identify a clear objective for the meeting and write it at the top of the agenda, maybe you don’t need to meet.
2. Get input from all participants
One benefit of meetings is that they allow you to gather multiple perspectives, but only if everybody gets a chance to participate. Make sure you send the agenda in advance, and indicate items you will want input on so people can be prepared. At the start of the meeting, ask for no interruptions; while it’s great that some people are energized by group discussions, it’s easy for them to shut others down by talking over them, even if it’s unintentional. Finally, gather input in multiple ways so that everyone gets a turn. For example, go around the table so each person can comment on an item, or have people write ideas on sticky notes or whiteboards.
3. Ensure there is clarity between fact and opinion
In any meeting, people are likely to have opinions about the way forward or how to fix a problem. There is a time for opinions and “thinking out loud,” but when it comes time to make decisions, it is important to be clear on the facts and data so they are factored into the ideas that are generated. Consider writing the facts on the whiteboard so that they don’t get lost in the discussion. This clarity will help to keep the meeting on track and make the best use of everyone’s time.
4. Recap periodically over the course of the meeting
One way to help keep a meeting flowing and make sure everybody stays on the same page is to do periodic recaps. This might include a list of the decisions that have been made so far, the work tasks that have been assigned, or a list of the agenda items still to be covered. Periodic recaps help keep people engaged and on-task, especially if you reference the meeting objective at the beginning of the recap.
5. Make decisions
Although not all meetings require decisions to be made, many do. When this is the case, it’s important to make clear decisions rather than just repeating the same pieces of information and ending the meeting no further ahead than before it started. When a decision can’t be made because more information is required, assign people to gather the information and present it at the next meeting or through another channel.
6. Assign tasks to individuals
Deciding what needs to happen in order to move a project forward is just one step in the right direction. You must also assign the work to individuals, or sometimes smaller teams, and give each task a timeline. Assigning tasks in the meeting makes it clear who is responsible for what and increases accountability because the entire group knows the assignments.
7. Keep the meeting engaging
Even when people are interested in the meeting content, it can be difficult to keep everybody engaged for the entire time, especially in larger team meetings that last multiple hours. Use various formats to keep meeting participants engaged. For example, your meeting might include a single presenter, a facilitated group discussion, an activity that requires people to move around the room, or mini rewards for great ideas. Include interactive moments that make people want to pay attention and participate.
8. Commit to following up after the meeting or at the next meeting
At the end of the meeting, run through the list of assignments and responsibilities and clearly communicate what is expected to happen next. If another meeting is scheduled, state the objective of that meeting and let people know what they will need to do to prepare for it. Send meeting minutes to participants and any other relevant parties to promote accountability.
Meetings are an opportunity for teams to come together, share ideas, accomplish projects, and, ultimately, drive results. Take advantage of that opportunity by using these eight strategies to get the most from your time together. For more information and to have a handy reference, download your free copy of A Guide to Running Effective Meetings today.