We’ve all been there. You’re sat in an important meeting and you can’t stop your mind from straying to thoughts of cheesecake for lunch. Here’s my 5 tips for a successful meeting.
In my experience, it’s even worse where you’re talking and you know other people have stopped listening and allowed their minds to wander to more appetising climbs.
Although cheesecake is delicious and rightly deserves to occupy head space, it’s inexcusable if you miss key points in a meeting.
There are numerous reasons why meetings are unsuccessful. They’re not exciting by nature but lack of a clear structure and dwelling too long on certain points all contribute to a meeting’s failure.
Here are my 5 top tips to avoid an unproductive meeting and keep your attendees engaged.
1. What’s the objective of the meeting?
Establishing a clear objective for any meeting is common sense. Without it, you may as well be at a chimpanzee’s tea party. No offence monkeys, but you’re pretty messy and crazy when you all get together.
Pin-pointing an objective gives your meeting purpose and will help your meeting along to a conclusion.
To establish the objective, you need to underpin the tone and reason for the meeting:
- Will you be discussing a pitch?
- Will you be thrashing out ideas?
- Will you be looking over a report?
- Will you be hatching a strategy?
With the objective in place and if you can honestly answer, “What do I want to see as a result of this meeting?” then you’re safe to send out the invitations.
2. Know the agenda and share it
Create an agenda and ask attendees to send over their discussion points beforehand. This will allow all people to have a chance to say their piece or raise anything that’s concerning them.
Putting an agenda in place not only helps you to allot time to discussion points, it will also inhibit you from straying off –topic.
Setting a time where people can realistically make it is essential. Affirming the start time in the invitation is also recommended.
If people aren’t given enough time to get there – take traffic and long distance into account – you don’t want to have to recap for latecomers. It also puts the agenda out of sync and people will have to leave to travel back home later than planned.
Conversely, it’s annoying if you’ve showed up to a meeting and about two thirds haven’t yet arrived. Don’t insist upon waiting for others to show up. Start when you said the meeting would commence. It’s is a polite nudge to people who breeze in ten minutes late that you will not halt schedule for latecomers. I’m sure people will not be late again!
4. Avoid being distracted
Inevitably side issues will be raised, but these should be noted and discussed in-depth at a later stage. Obviously you shouldn’t just brush over important questions, but if you fear they’re steering the meeting off on a tangent, politely reign the discussion back in and tell the person who asked you’ll discuss it separately.
Sticking to schedule is important for all attendees. It stops people from losing their focus, interest and more importantly, stops time being wasted.
5. Document the meeting
Even if your company isn’t hosting the meeting, it’s important that someone is there to document what’s said. So if the host hasn’t organised minute taking – bring your own scribe along.
This way, you have a record of what was expressed, what issues need addressing at a later date and which action points were raised from the meeting.
Once you’ve typed up your minutes, it’s often customary and very helpful for these to be shared with those who attended.
If you have any other tips, feel free to share them below.