If you’re like most people, you know that meetings are essential but they aren’t a part of the day you enjoy. Meetings tend to drag on, address subject matter that doesn’t often result in measurable change, and take you and your employees away from other revenue-driving tasks.
The problem might be that you need to refine how you manage your meetings. Here are some keys to running a better meeting.
1. What is the focus? Your meeting may cover a couple of topics but it should have a focus that you can articulate in one sentence. “Wednesday’s meeting will address the training of employees on the new POS system.”
2. Make an agenda. Now that you have your main idea, create an agenda that lists the topics to cover within the main idea. Ask for input from the attendees in order to avoid other topics coming up that make the meeting run long or lose focus.
3. Schedule at off-peak times. A meeting at 10:00 a.m., when the day’s work is piling up, is the wrong time to ask people to focus on what you have to say. Consider scheduling it at lunch, before, or after regular hours.
4. Bring food. If it’s during employees’ lunch hour, have food brought in at your expense. If it’s after or before hours, do the same and pay hourly employees. Keeping them working for your business during regular hours will make up for extra hours you have to pay.
5. Start the meeting on time. Making attendees wait will not only make them grumpy, it’s a productivity killer. Make sure all attendees know that the meeting will start and end on time.
6. Articulate the goals. At the beginning of the meeting, tell everybody what will be accomplished and how much time is allotted. Remind them that the time will go fast so keeping on task is key.
7. Have a timekeeper. Even the best-planned agenda can result in the meeting drifting away from the goal. Conversations often lead to other topics making the meeting run long and accomplish nothing. In a light-hearted way, tell everybody that a certain employee will serve as the on-task police. He or she will speak up when the meeting veers off course and will time the meeting so it doesn’t run over time.
8. Take detailed minutes. Minutes should be taken by a detail-oriented person and those minutes should be distributed following the meeting.
9. Plan the follow-up meeting. If there is to be a follow-up meeting based on what was done, set goals and assign “homework.” Make it specific and delegate to specific people. Plan the next meeting date.
10. Ask for feedback. Did the attendees feel like it was a good use of their time? Is there a better way to discuss these topics or accomplish the goals? Encourage people to be honest.
Remember that meetings are an art. Learning to run a meeting in a way that keeps everybody engaged, stays focused on a goal, and makes meaningful progress is an art that takes practice. Talk to colleagues and read articles about how to run better meetings. Always try to make the next one better than the one you just had.