HOW TO RUN SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS
The truth is that meetings can be an excellent use of time when well-run. As a meeting organizer, there are a couple of things that you can do to make sure that your meetings are as successful, productive and good as they possibly can be.
Meetings can take many shapes and forms. it can be internal meetings with colleagues, external meetings with clients and suppliers, short meetings, long meetings, information meetings, work shops.. Depending on the type of meeting, different elements apply and various things are more important than others. However, in a general sense, there are some general things you should make sure to think about.
Here are my top tips for making a meeting successful:
- Meeting invitation
It all starts with the meeting invitation. Think about the attendees list and who needs to be there in order to have a productive meeting. When possible, send the meeting invitation in good time so that the participants are most likely to be free to join. If you have the chance, check the availability of key personnel before deciding the date and time. Write a good and informative meeting invitation, which clearly states the meeting objective, time and place, and if the participants need to prepare anything in advance or bring anything in particular to the meeting (this could be laptops, pen and paper, various info, etc.) If you already have the agenda you should include this now. If it is not complete yet, you should include main subjects of the meeting, and let participants know that the agenda will be sent at a later stage, prior to the meeting.
- Meeting location
Location, location, location.. Sometimes location is key, other times it really does not matter so much. There are a couple of questions that you can ask yourself prior to deciding the location: What kind of a meeting are you running? Where would the meeting be most effective? Should it be held in-house at the office, or at a distant location to ensure space and focus? Is it easy to get to and from the meeting? Is there a particular vibe that you want to create for the meeting? What kind of a budget do you have?
- Meeting facilities
Does the facilities have the necessary equipment that you need? (Technical, whiteboard, pens and paper, glasses, cups, etc.) It should not be too cold, nor too warm. There should be ability to let in fresh air. Is there enough space for everyone?
- Be on time
On time is too late. As the meeting organizer you should arrive early. Early enough to set-up everything for the meeting and get in the flow yourself, before the other attendees start to arrive.
- Check equipment
Nothing is more upsetting than having technical issues in a meeting. This sort of thing can easily put you off your game, so make sure that everything is working properly and that you know exactly how to use it, prior to the meeting. Are the pencils and notepads, cups and glasses, drink and snacks in place? Are the whiteboard pens working properly?
- Safety moment and presentation
At the very beginning of a meeting, the first thing you should always do, is to go through the safety issues; such as fire exists, meeting points and if there are any planned fire drills, etc. Then make sure everyone knows where the toilets are and other necessary information. Take a moment to present yourself and why you are there as the meeting rep, and also your team and or the various attendees if necessary.
Unless the agenda should, for any reason, be a secret, you should send out the agenda in advance of the meeting, so that the participants have a chance to prepare accordingly. Also, the more people see information, the more it seems to stick. The agenda should include the objective of the meeting and the various subjects of the meeting, along with a time schedule and a break schedule. The very first thing you do, after doing the safety moment and introduction of yourself, is to go thoroughly through the meeting agenda.
- Define the rules
When starting the meeting, clearly define the rules of the meeting. I highly recommend that this includes the “no mobile phones or lap top use during the meeting- rule”. Nothing is more annoying and disturbing than a person sitting next to you, slamming the keys and clearly not paying attention. This also does something about the dynamic in the room. Unless you have a task that means you need to be on your computer, all laptops should be closed and phones faced down.
Breaks are what keeps the momentum going! You need to schedule regular breaks, and no more than 45 minutes between each break. People need to get some fresh air, go to the toilet, check their phones, and have a bit of a rest from the concentration. I cannot stress this enough. So many meeting coordinators downplays the importance of this very important point and it is sad because it really affects the spirit of the meeting and people´s focus.
- Time keeping
Be notorious on time keeping. Nothing is more annoying than a meeting that never ends, or seeing that one subject takes much more time than scheduled, leaving other subjects to suffer. Be respectful of peoples time and stick to the timeline in the agenda. Never shorten or withdraw breaks too save time – just don’t do it. A very good tip is to have some spare minutes in the agenda here and there, in order to make up for lost time if anything occurs. And if you don’t need them, then you can end the meeting a bit earlier than planned.
- Dedicated tasks
Too make the meeting run smoothly it is important that the small but important tasks are looked after. Sometimes you are able to do a lot of these yourself, other times it might be good with some help. The following tasks should be taken care of, either by yourself or someone you dedicate to it.
– Keeping the time and making sure that the meeting is on time, at all times, letting people know when they are out of time on a subject etc.
– Refilling coffee,tea and other refreshments.
– Taking notes of the meeting, for the purpose of writing a good Minutes of Meeting to send to participants after the meeting, especially focusing on decisions that have been made, further action points and parking lot subjects.
- “Parking Lot”
If a particular subject takes much more time that you had originally outlined, or if there are ideas or subjects coming up in the meeting that were not originally on the agenda, but which are interesting to explore, you should put them in the “parking lot”. Meaning that you write them down and schedule a discussion on them for another time. Let the participants know this, include it in your meeting summary, and follow-up on it at a later stage (as promised).
- Drinks and snacks
I find that it gives an extra boost and positive vibe when there is some meeting room snacks available. People actually just get more easy going. Hydration is ALWAYS important, so available water (and a selection of sodas if you prefer) is very important. Coffee/tea is also a great meeting companion, and kind of a necessity as it is common and expected.
- Notepads and pens
Many people like to take notes in meetings. Especially if there are actions given, etc. If laptops are shut down, it is a good idea to have available pen and paper for the attendees. You can also tell them to bring it themselves to the meeting, however, rest assured that someone will forget it.
- Summary and MoM
The more people hear things, the more it will stick. This is why you should go through a well organized summary at the end of the meeting, going through all the different subjects you’ve discussed during the meeting. A tip is to take small notes (of the most important/relevant things) for the summary during the meeting.
The Minutes of Meeting is a complete summary of the meeting that you send to all the participants after the meeting. It should include important decisions, further tasks and actions and who is responsible for what, and subjects that came up in the meeting for further discussions. You can chose to take notes for the MoM yourself, which a lot of people do if it is a fairly short and not complex meeting. However, if you are speaking yourself most of the meeting, or if it is a long og complex meeting in which your attention needs to be undivided to being present in the meeting, you should have someone else do this task for you. I recommend finding the time to sit down and looking through/making final touches to the MoM the same day as the meeting, because this is when everything is still fresh in your memory. If there is no rush, and you are really peculiar about details, you can wait another day to actually send the MoM, so that you can go through it again after you’ve had some space from it, just in case you want to make some last minute changes before sending it.
Follow the tips above and I am sure that you will be well equipped for running successful meetings. Good luck!