The calendar invites are flooding your inbox, and between the conference calls, slack messages, video chats, and meetings you aren’t sure when you’re actually going to get the work done. Meetings can be incredibly time consuming; however, when used effectively, meetings can help to minimize confusion, delegate tasks, and enhance team communication. Here are four strategies to make the most of your next meeting.
1) Create an Agenda
I know you’ve heard this many times before, but agendas are key! Whether the meeting is an informal check-in with a colleague, or a weekly team progress meeting, everyone should have a formal agenda in hand. Why?
Agendas force you to think about the purpose of the meeting. If you’re having difficulty coming up with an agenda, this suggests that the meeting isn’t necessary. Or, if you realize that you only have a question for one member of the team, it may be better to meet separately.
Asking all attendees to review the agenda beforehand encourages everyone attending to think about what they can bring to the table.
While unexpected items may come up during the meeting, setting a clear agenda helps to alleviate tangents and stay on task.
2) Start a Conversation
The purpose of the agenda isn’t only to structure the meeting, but also to help encourage participation. Work to make sure that every item on the agenda is also accompanied by a clear goal. This way, all of the attendees know what you’re looking for, how they can best help, and why they’re at this meeting. No one likes to be spoken at for an hour straight, or to feel as if his or her time isn’t being valued. By posing a question, or clearly stating what you would like to get from the team, you can create a dialogue during the meeting. Through conversation, you can facilitate problem solving and the sharing of opinions. Also, people are more likely to be engaged when they’re actually involved!
3) Disagree with a Purpose
The purpose of a team isn’t just to help manage work load and work flow, but the team structure allows for the sharing of different perspectives and expertise. However, differing opinions often lead to actual disagreements, and arguing during a meeting can definitely be a time drain. We aren’t suggesting that you go along with someone else's opinion for the sake of ending the meeting, but arguing just to argue also isn’t very beneficial. While every team is different, establishing team norms can help to create an environment of open communication and purposeful disagreement. One guideline in particular is agreeing to disagree with a purpose. In other words, if a team member is going to disagree with a colleague, then they’re expected to contribute a solution or suggestion to resolve the disagreement. This way, even if the meeting does reach a stalemate, everyone is already thinking about ways to make forward progress.
4) Get Specific About Next Steps
Not every question is going to be answered during one meeting, but it’s important to at least give it a try. To ensure that your meeting remains on track, stick to the agenda and formulate at least one clear and definable action step that will be taken for each item. Before the end of the meeting make sure to: delegate tasks, schedule a time to check in regarding progress, and double check that everyone is clear on expectations. Whether or not a problem was resolved, you want to make sure that by the end of the meeting everyone knows what to do next. Then, send a copy of this information to every attendee to help promote accountability.
The next time you’re invited to a meeting, try implementing these four strategies. By redefining the structure of meetings in your workplace, you will find that time spent in the conference room can become one of your best resources.
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