Meetings are great opportunities for you to share your thought leadership with people you work with. They provide ample opportunity for you to express your knowledge and expertise with your boss, colleagues, and peers. Specifically, you can share thoughts and ideas about the field/industry you’re in (and want to be a thought leader in) and receive inspiration for new ideas. Since meetings inevitably have to happen for organizations to run smoothly, running them effectively can offer more opportunities than you think!
At THiNKaha, Inc., we have a weekly team meeting and bi-weekly 1×1 meetings with all of the team members. Since we are a virtual company and our team members are scattered around the globe, “meeting” on a regular basis is an absolute must. I’ve led and participated in many meetings throughout my career and there are some simple tips that I’ve learned on how to manage a meeting effectively and efficiently. (See the list of links at the end of this post for virtual meeting tools you can use.)
We have all experienced meetings that are not productive, unnecessarily lengthy, and in the end, just feel arduous. It truly is an unfortunate occurrence when you leave a meeting (physical or virtual) having felt like you got nothing out of it. If you are managing meetings, please read on as I have some basic tips on how you can conduct meetings that are effective, efficient, and impactful.
Start On Time (No Exceptions!)
One thing that happens constantly, no matter what, are late arrivals. Unfortunately, there are always people that come late to meetings. Don’t let late arrivals throw off your agenda and get in the way of you reaching your objectives. The solution is to always start on time—start without waiting for the late arrivals. They will eventually understand how truly important promptness and punctuality is to you and your meetings. I’ve seen companies that place a jar in the meeting of the room, and those that are late need to put some agreed amount of “penalty” into it. (This doesn’t always work well.) Maintain a strict schedule and everyone will be on board and in sync with you soon enough. Please note that in order to start the meeting on time, you must be on time as well!
A mentor once shared the following statement that made a significant impact on my life: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be rude!” Try it, see what you think.
As the meeting leader, prepare the meeting room early (or have someone else responsible for it) and arrive at least five to ten minutes beforehand. If you’re running a virtual meeting, call in five to ten minutes beforehand so you can prepare and welcome attendees that call in early. There are loads of helpful tools that you can use to ensure that you’re on time—I use Google Calendar to send e-mail and smartphone reminders to let me know when I should get going to a meeting.
Stick to Your Agenda and the Objectives within It
It is very easy to “rathole” (to get off topic or go on a tangent about something not related to what the group should be discussing). Personally, I like the concept of having a white board (or flip chart) that you use as a parking lot. Its use is to park any topics that are not relevant to the topic of the meeting to be addressed later. Before you start your meeting, make clear to yourself what the objectives are and then convey them to your attendees. It is up to you to keep things clear and rolling as the meeting is happening. If you are conducting a meeting in person and you want everybody to keep track of the meeting’s agenda and objectives, provide a hand-out to each member of the meeting. If your meeting is virtual, e-mail it to each attendee or use one of a number of online tools to share this info. This’ll make it easier for your attendees to get value from the meeting by preparing any questions, comments, or concerns they may have about the issues at hand.
Be Prepared with the Materials You Need
Along with your agenda and list of objectives for the meeting, have any additional materials that you need ready to go. If you have a PowerPoint presentation to give, have it queued up on the device you are using (as well as on a flash drive and sent ahead of time to virtual attendees); if you want someone to take notes, have that person equipped with what they need in order to do so and the style and level of detail you’d like to see. For in-person meetings, test any audio/visual equipment that you’ll be using beforehand to make sure everything’s working. Be prepared for the situation when the equipment will fail and you are working entirely without technology. For virtual meetings, especially if you’re working with a meeting/conference call tool that you haven’t worked with before, test your microphone beforehand.
Keep Record of Your Previous Meetings
This will help you lead a meeting that is conducive to progress and moving forward in the agenda you have laid out. You should share a quick recap from the last meeting while also addressing the status of key action items. This is an easy thing to do whether you are having an in-person meeting or a virtual one. It will keep you organized and will help you be efficient with your meetings over time.
Listen to your Attendees
Have a time set aside that is dedicated to listening to what others have to say. You can go person by person, or just have an open floor format. Meetings are designed to inform its attendees of what the goal is for that week, of projects coming up, giving recognitions of jobs well done, and so on. However, they are also meant to engage in discussion about how you can come together and create a better environment that will yield high levels of productivity and happiness. So listen to those around you, because there will be some good ideas worth listening to. Being a thought leader is an ongoing process; not only should you be the one to inspire others but let others inspire you. Share ideas, crowdsource, and collaborate!
Meetings will always be a fact of any work environment, whether they are physical or virtual. When it comes to conducting a meeting that is efficient and effective, it will take effort on your end as well as those who are attending. But that preparation beforehand and the consistency of the meetings will be key to getting the results you want and expect.
Helpful Virtual Meeting Tools: