Here’s What We Have Learned About Running Effective Meetings

How often have you left a meeting and thought, “That could have been an email?” When done right, meetings can be an effective way to collaborate and chat with your team. Unfortunately, more often than not, meetings get off-track and run over schedule. Business leaders absolutely must learn to conduct effective meetings if they want to get things done.

Five people meet around their boss's desk, depicting poor meeting planning.

Ground Rules For Effective Meetings

Many employees dread meetings, and for good reason. According to a study by career website Zippia, 65% of employees say that time spent in meetings prevents them from focusing on and accomplishing their work. In addition, 34% of workers cite unproductive meetings as the leading cause of revenue loss for their company.

Zippia found that among the employees they polled, the average time per month spent in unproductive meetings was approximately 31 hours. Bad meetings can cause more harm than just boredom. They can cripple your organization.

However, a good meeting can do wonders for productivity and morale. The key to running effective meetings is establishing a few ground rules before each. The following tips are effective meeting strategies that can help keep your sessions on track.

Here’s what I’ve learned about crafting effective meetings over the years.

  1. Don’t be late. Effective meetings start on time. In this regard, you must lead by example. Your employees won’t take their punctuality seriously if the meeting organizer is always five minutes late. It would be best if you also refused to tolerate lateness in your participants. Chronic lateness should be cause for disciplinary action.
  2. Keep your meetings short and focused. Don’t repeat, ramble, or go off on a tangent. Work off an agenda so no one loses track of where you are. One of the most significant barriers to effective meetings is allowing a minor issue to dominate the available time.
  3. Try holding short stand-up meetings. If everyone must stand until the session is over, no one will be inclined to talk for too long.
  4. Avoid having meetings just for the sake of meetings. Instead, think long and hard about whether a potential meeting could be summed up in an email or phone call.
  5. Only invite the necessary participants. Too often, we over-invite, thinking we’re doing everyone a favor by keeping them in the loop. If someone is not needed for a meeting, consider catching them up later rather than forcing them to sit through one.
  6. Pick unusual locations in which to meet. Holding a meeting outside when the weather is beautiful can be a quick morale boost. Some people enjoy walking meetings to keep participants on their toes, literally and figuratively.
  7. Keep it under 45 minutes. If you can’t conclude in 45 minutes, you and your participants must prepare better before your next meeting. Asking your employees to sit still for more than 45 minutes is just asking for trouble.
  8. Pace new information and seek closure. It’s better to discuss fewer ideas and come to a conclusion rather than have an extended agenda. Here is a pro tip: early agenda items stimulate dialogue and time. If you have a controversial topic, put a minor topic before it on the agenda.
  9. Speaking of agendas, send yours out before the meeting so your participants have time to gather their thoughts and prepare any resources they’ll need to bring.
  10. Finally, the secret to running effective meetings is “running” them. You must herd your participants back to the topic when meetings get off track. Without active moderation, a meeting can quickly devolve into chaos.

What Are the Best Practices for Online Meetings?

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the business landscape in innumerable ways, but one of the most noticeable changes is that many companies went remote, completely, or part-time.

Most rules for conducting an in-person meeting still apply to virtual meetings: be on time, keep things short, send out an agenda, and avoid tangents. You will need to moderate the meeting to keep things moving.

However, there are a few other tips for engaging virtual meetings to consider when your meeting is entirely online or has some participants dialing in. Here are a few best practices for effective virtual team meetings.

  1. If you are leading the meeting, you must have your camera on. As the host, you will set the tone for the other participants. Let your coworkers see your body language and your level of engagement. If you don’t make the effort, why should they?
  2. On that note, encourage your participants to turn on their cameras. It disturbs me that so many people have gotten used to keeping their cameras off for meetings. You can’t fully engage or connect without visual cues. If one person has tech trouble, that’s fine, but a call full of empty squares is concerning.
  3. Check your technology before the call to make sure everything works in advance. Become an expert at using the meeting software, whether your company uses Zoom or Google Hangouts. Know how to mute other people as well as yourself. Figure out what all the buttons do. This will eliminate wasted time when a problem inevitably arises.
  4. Ask everyone but the speaker to mute themselves during the call. This reduces background noise and allows everyone to hear what is said. Many virtual meeting programs have a “hand raise” function so participants can signal when they want to talk.
  5. Discourage multi-tasking. It’s demoralizing for someone to speak when their coworkers are working on other tasks. Make it clear that participants must be focused on the meeting itself.
  6. Ask questions to keep things interactive. If you’re not engaging with your participants, they’ll probably find it difficult to pay attention for long.

Having short, sweet, engaging, and to-the-point meetings is in everyone’s best interest. If you follow these tips, you’ll soon see that running effective meetings is more doable than you think.

If you still need help running effective meetings, I can help. As a business coach, my blog is bursting with free articles to help you learn new effective meeting strategies, improve your leadership skills, and establish authority. Sign up for my newsletter to receive each new weekly piece in your inbox.

Coach Dave

Dave Schoenbeck
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