How to Turn Boring Meetings into Productive Meetings

We all hate meetings. Even if you’re the person running them. They’re dreaded, unproductive, and usually a waste of time. But meetings themselves aren’t boring, it’s the people running them. By rethinking how you conduct meetings, they can actually be useful. No, seriously.

Here are some basic tips on how to better run your next meeting so people look forward to going and are clear about what to do afterwards.

How to Prepare for the Meeting

Before calling everyone to the conference room, make sure you know why you’re doing it. The prep work that goes into a meeting will help it be that much more effective and efficient.

  1. Have a Clear Agenda. “Because we meet weekly” isn’t good enough. What do you specifically want to accomplish by the end of the meeting? What does everyone attending need to contribute? If there is no goal, don’t meet.
  2. Don’t Lecture. The purpose of a meeting isn’t to give people information. It’s to have discussion. Eliminate any one-way info dumps from your agenda and send that in an email.
  3. Tell People the Purpose. When you send out the invite, tell people exactly what you expect out of the meeting. Is it to brainstorm? Get feedback? Resolve issues? Be clear and concise. Also include an agenda with a time schedule.
  4. Ask People to Prepare. Don’t let people go into meetings blind. Let them know what ideas they need to bring. If they go in with prior research and thought, ideas will spring up much quicker.
  5. Send Reminders. They shouldn’t need them, but people do forget. This helps increase attendance as well as remind people on preparation items.

How to Run the Meeting

It’s show time. Each meeting sets the tone and expectation for the next. Run it well, and they only get better.

  1. Start on Time. When you start later, people show up later, and those bad habits turn into a vicious cycle. Don’t catch up for those walking in late – it encourages and reaffirms bad behavior. Just continue on.
  2. Casual Pre-Conversation. For those that arrive early, ask how their days are, what their plans are for the weekend, etc. It gets people talking on a more comfortable level. But don’t let it cut into start time.
  3. State Your Point. Tell people why they’re here, what you’ll cover, and what they’ll leave with. Convince them this meeting is important, and they’ll pay attention.
  4. Publicly Give Praise. Acknowledging people’s accomplishments in front of others is a huge motivator for increased participation and better work.
  5. Stay on Schedule. Set timers. Even a countdown clock visible to everyone is good. When people know their time is limited to accomplish something, they’ll chime in more quickly.
  6. Stay on Topic. Don’t go off on tangents or let a discussion go overtime. If it becomes apparent that significantly more time needs to be given to a topic, table it for another meeting.
  7. Specific Action Points. Everyone should leave the meeting with a tangible to-do or next-step item.
  8. End on Time or Early. Respect people’s times. When you go overtime, people focus less on the meeting and more on the clock. It also leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

How to Follow Up on the Meeting

You survived. But your meeting was pointless if nothing happens after. Make sure you follow up.

  1. Send Out Action Points. This should be done shortly after the meeting, and at latest the next day. In addition to a general meeting recap with the main points of what was discussed, make sure to include specific action points, due date, and who’s responsible.
  2. Track Action Points. What were the time frames for those actions? Make sure you follow up on assignments after giving them.
  3. Set Micro Meetings. Sometimes following up on specific projects don’t require the whole team. Schedule in small 5-10 minute meetings with individuals or small groups on specific tasks. It’ll make your big meetings more efficient. This applies before and after meetings.

What types of meetings do you run? Do you have any tips for holding better meetings, or any horror stories of what not to do in a meeting? Let me know in the comments.


Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos

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