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5 Tips to Improve Meetings

When you hold a meeting, do people frequently check their watches? Do people stare longingly at the door? Do you hear yawns?

Don’t worry! We have some tips to help you prepare more engaging and efficient meetings.

Set an Agenda

Agendas might not sound like a lot of fun, but they’re an essential part of running a meeting that allows everyone to participate and share ideas. The best agendas are shared well in advance, giving people an opportunity to review the topics and come prepared. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a meeting only to discover you’re not prepared to discuss a topic!

When writing an agenda, be sure to include the meeting’s purpose. If there are too many objectives, consider breaking one meeting into several smaller meetings. The agenda items should be prioritized with the most important issues at the beginning so that no major issues are left undiscussed or undecided if the clock runs out.

Start Off on the Right Foot

The person running the meeting is in charge of creating an energizing environment. If you’re in charge, get to the meeting early so that you can welcome people by name. Show energy, and people will mimic your enthusiasm level.

The reason for doing this is not just to appear peppy and upbeat. When people meet in the same physical space, body language, voice inflections and facial expressions make a significant difference in how messages are received. Even with video conferences, voice inflections and facial expressions have a strong impact on the mood of the other meeting participants.

Through the way you conduct yourself, you can show interest in the other participants and the meeting objectives. If the meeting topics aren’t pleasant, you can express a sense of empathy and understanding.

Keep the Invite List Short

Bigger meetings are rarely better meetings. You want the people attending your meetings to be active participants, not just spectators who have no pertinent information to share and no role in making decisions. You can always email such people after the meeting ends to inform them of what was discussed and what action was taken.

The Wall Street Journal says these are good target sizes for particular types of meetings:

  • Weighing problems: four to six people
  • Making a decision: four to seven people
  • Agenda-setting: five to 15 people
  • Brainstorming: 10 to 20 people

Of course, these sizes should be adjusted for your company culture, the meeting objectives and the size of your organization.

Remember the Big Picture

During a meeting, it’s easy to get in the weeds. Details, dates, deadlines — these can slow down a meeting and take attention from the big picture. As the meeting leader, it’s your job to periodically remind the participants about the objectives and goals, and to reiterate how the meeting fits into the overall company vision. Highlighting how the meeting outcomes will benefit the team and company overall instills a sense of purpose and urgency. And, whenever possible, take a moment to recognize individual and group successes.

Make Sure Everyone Knows What Happens Next

Bolting toward the door after a meeting is not helpful. Take a few moments to go around the room and confirm the next steps for each participant — what he or she is responsible for doing, and the deadline for completing the task. If there’s any confusion, it’s better to figure it out at the meeting rather than discover something later.

Be sure to schedule the next meeting before leaving the current one. And, before everyone leaves, summarize the progress you’ve achieved during the meeting so that everyone leaves on a positive note.

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