Making Meetings More Meaningful
A variety of factors, ranging from the personalities in the room to the location to the chairs you’re sitting on, can make a meeting a disaster or a success. Here are some quick tips to making in-person meetings more productive as you explore what will work for you and your team.
Create an agenda.
There’s always that one person who strays off topic and wants to talk about marketing when the meeting is about product. In order to accomplish the goals you had in mind when you set the original meeting, create an agenda of tasks to discuss while you’re in the room. If someone strays from the agenda, it’s also easier to politely nudge them back to what’s written in front of them, and separate that conversation for another time.
Invite only the people who need to be there.
Don’t invite people just because you don’t want them to feel left out. Those people who don’t need to be in the room are often the ones who go on tangential rants if their head isn’t in the game. Instead, invite only those who will help in solving your challenge and advance the agenda. Conversely, don’t forget to include key stakeholders and managers who may delay the project if they’re not included in the conversation.
Meet in a room conducive to working.
It may seem superfluous, but meeting in a room where there’s natural light, a few green plants, and comfortable furniture makes all the difference. Nobody likes spending a long meeting in a crowded room in an uncomfortable chair. Choose an environment that will nurture your curiosity and productivity.
Manage the clock and stick to it.
If you’ve only got an hour to solve the problem, make sure you remind people that you need to be highly effective in managing your minutes. If someone goes off on a tangent, politely remind them that you only have an hour to discuss this current challenge. Similarly, when the meeting is winding down, remind the group there’s only X minutes left to discuss the items left on the agenda. This will ensure that everyone is remaining on task and solving the current issue.
Take notes and follow up afterward.
Be sure there’s someone in the room assigned with the task of taking copious notes and sending out action items after the meeting ends. There should be a paper trail if someone changes their mind, forgets next steps or disagrees with what was asked of them later down the line. Post-meeting, it’s imperative to detail what the team decided as well as what each team member is expected to accomplish until the next deadline (your follow up e-mail with next steps). This will clear up any potential misunderstandings, hold your colleagues accountable for the next milestone, and continue moving the project forward.
Not sure if you should host an in-person meeting? Here’s a cheat sheet of pros and cons for meeting face-to-face:
- It’s easy to communicate when you’re in person and can read the other person’s body language and expressions, which can be missed over the phone or on a video chat.
- Traveling for in-person meetings means you’re truly taking the time for the other person, which can tell them how important they are to you.
- In-person meetings often mean you travel to their office or vice versa, and you may not have the time to spare.
- It may be difficult to acquire the financial resources to travel. It also can be tough to justify a 30-minute meeting if the travel time is an hour or more round trip.