Meeting Under Your Own Terms

Meetings are a ubiquitous part of our work lives. Whether you love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that they play a crucial role within organizations. However, all too often, we find ourselves trapped in unproductive meetings that consume valuable time and leave us wondering, “Couldn’t this have been an email?”

This article will provide practical strategies to make your meetings more effective, purposeful, and results-driven. Get ready to unlock the secrets that will save you time, increase your team’s productivity, and ultimately propel your organization towards success.

Establish a Clear Goal

Setting a clear goal and agenda is crucial for productive meetings. Ask yourself: What specific outcome or decision do you want to reach? Communicate the goal to all participants beforehand so they understand the meeting's purpose. This clarity helps everyone stay focused and engaged throughout the discussion. Based on this goal, you should also know which teammates are needed for this group meeting. You won’t always need an entire group to attend every meeting. Instead, decide who can contribute to the goal and make invites accordingly. 

Prepare and share a meeting agenda in advance. An agenda typically has the topic of the meeting at the top, listing attendees and talking points below. In a long or very crowded meeting, assigning time limits to each talking point might be helpful. For example, an hour-long meeting might have 12 talking points, each with five minutes. Cater the time limits to the needs of the meeting. These should take into account grace periods for late attendees, if any. Once you’ve created the agenda, share it with your teammates and encourage them to review the agenda beforehand.

Avoid Hiccups with Proper Preparation  

When meeting in person, arrive early to the meeting to prepare the meeting space. This might include ensuring your equipment is available and working correctly. Practice using technology in advance, including projecting your screen, and testing audio for presentations or for any team members who might be dialing in from another location. These practices help you avoid hiccups that can slow down the meeting and cause loss of attention. 

The same is true of online meetings. Ensure your microphone and webcam are working correctly — every video meeting platform allows you to test your video and audio quality in its settings. Make sure your lighting is appropriateIf you plan to share your screen or any media during the meeting, make sure you test screen and audio sharing beforehand to make sure your sharing is clear to all teammates.

Establish Ground Rules

By establishing ground rules, you can foster a positive and focused meeting environment that allows for effective collaboration and decision-making. The ground rules also help create an environment of respect.

After making intros, introduce the meeting’s ground rules. This might include how much time you have. It might also mean establishing a process for sharing, like a popcorn session or Q&A. In a popcorn session, people speak when they are moved to speak. In a Q&A, or question & answer session, questions are raised by teammates one by one.

  • Time Management. Stick to the schedule, encourage participants to arrive on time and avoid unrelated discussions that prolong the meeting.
  • Active Participation. Encourage everyone to engage in the discussion, listen attentively, and contribute their ideas. Ensure that everyone has a chance to speak without interruptions.

  • One Conversation at a Time. Ask participants to avoid side conversations and distractions.

  • Respectful Behavior. Lead by example by providing respect to everyone involved. This can include a statement like this: “Remember, as a company, we value diversity in thought, so please be open-minded as each person presents their ideas.” Emphasize the importance of being professional, open to constructive criticism and discourage personal attacks.

Meeting Takeaways

Remember, effective meetings are characterized by clear goals, structured agendas, thorough preparation, active participation, and respectful behavior. By implementing these tips, you can enhance the productivity and outcome of your meetings.

For more actionable tips for communication, sign up for the Communicating in Groups and Teams course and start catalyzing your professional and earning potential today with CareerCatalyst ASU.