How many times have you heard a coworker jokingly mutter, “This could have been an email,” when sitting in yet another laborious meeting?
No matter how you feel about meetings, they are a necessary, important part of team collaboration. However, in order to be effective, meetings must be conducted as a strategic tool with a clear purpose.
According to the Webster Dictionary, a “meeting” is the act of coming together. But an effective meeting is a coming together that is purposeful, involves all attendees, and closes with clear action steps.
Let’s explore how to lead effective meetings in 6 easy steps:
- Define the purpose of your meeting.
You must have clarity about why you are bringing people together. Are you meeting to make a decision? To set goals? To share information? That’s your purpose. Then take time to pause and consider: if it’s truly an informational meeting, do we need to be together? Or is it more effective to communicate that information in a different way?
There is a business cost associated with bringing people together. Your meeting needs to be a good investment for the team and organization. When you bring people together when necessary, and with a clear purpose in mind, your attendees value the time they spend with you.
- Set the stage for in-person, hybrid, or virtual meetings.
In today’s hybrid work environment, it is essential to have a plan for all types of meetings. In-person meetings require everyone to be in the same location, there may be travel expenses, and meeting room availability is important to consider. Virtual and hybrid meetings also pose challenges around technology and time zones. Consider how you will use technology, your comfort in managing technology during the meeting, and if you will ask participants to have video on or off during the meeting. Be sure to communicate the expectations in advance of your meeting.
For hybrid meetings, it is best to have two meeting facilitators: one in-person, and one online. These individuals should share responsibility of the meeting agenda. This creates a sense of safety and community for your remote members. It sends the message, “Wherever you are, you are a valued part of this team.”
- Clearly open the meeting.
This is a key, foundational component to lead effective meetings, and it must happen before you jump into the content of your agenda. Tell your participants why they are here and what you are going to talk about. Clearly communicate why it’s important that you are talking today—what makes this matter urgent and timely. Don’t assume that everybody knows this information.
Furthermore, talk about guidelines for participation. Do you expect to hear from each person? Let them know ahead of time. Perhaps you want attendees to put questions and comments in a chat, or alert them that the meeting will end with a vote. It is critical to set expectations so that the group all knows how they’re going to be together in that meeting.
- Be respectful of your audience’s time.
Strive to be an excellent steward of your audience’s time. Everyone is overbooked and overscheduled when it comes to meetings. At times, attendees may need to choose between attending your meeting or a different gathering. Make it worth their while by setting realistic calendar invitations.
As a general rule of thumb, always end a meeting early, even just a few minutes. Your attendees will walk away feeling grateful for the gift of time.
- Create opportunities for involvement.
Steven Covey says, “Without involvement, there is no commitment.” Involving all attendees is critical to running an effective meeting. The primary way of involving others in a meeting is to invite them to speak. Do this in a way that is safe for all participants, and with structure. Consider ways that technology can be used (a poll or survey, a discussion board, a breakout room) to give everyone a voice during the appropriate moment.
Before your meeting, define at which points you need to pause and invite conversation. Encourage questions and consider setting the ground rule that silence equals consensus and agreement. When participants are involved in a meeting, they will leave feeling heard and invested in the meeting’s outcome.
- Smoothly close the meeting.
Closing the meeting is a mirror of the opening. Concisely restate why you came together, what you all achieved during the meeting, express thanks or confidence in the group, and then define next steps.
Many team members are going through their days exhausted, hurrying from one meeting to the next. Closing a meeting helps energize, bring to completion, and clarity.
Take your next step
Are you ready to take charge of your next meeting? With these 6 easy steps, you are ready to lead effective meetings that people actually enjoy attending. To dive even deeper and hear from a certified coach, check out our Facilitate Effective Meetings program. This one-day program is easily customizable for your organization and can be delivered over multiple sessions if needed.