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How To Host a Productive Team Meeting

They say “time is money”; the irony is sometimes our time can be wasted at work, especially with internal team meetings.  Meetings are meant to be productive, focused get-togethers that push agenda items forward and with great purpose.  Sadly, sometimes the best-laid plans get derailed by missteps in preparing for the meeting.

Below are some tips to help you better prepare for your next team meeting:

  1. Use Doodle to schedule your meeting – if your team does not have an internal calendar where you can see everyone’s availability, using Doodle to schedule your meeting is a GREAT time saver! Doodle allows you to suggest meeting times, and then invite attendees to weigh in on when they are available.
      1. Suggest a small handful of time options – giving your attendees too many time choices makes it difficult for attendees to block time off in their calendars while they wait for everyone to weigh in
      2. Confirm your meeting time 24-48 hours after sending your Doodle – if you wait too long, your attendees may inadvertently double-book

  2. Create an agenda – sending an agenda in advance does a few things to set up your meeting for success. (Confession – I no longer attend any meetings or accept invitations without an agenda.  Call me what you will, I call it being “more productive and purposeful with my time.”)
    1. Creates buy-in from attendees
    2. Allows attendees to prepare for the meeting
    3. Decreases wasted time going over the agenda when the meeting starts
    4. Tip – define your meeting’s start and end time, and assign approximate times for each agenda item.
  1. Define your mission statement – Why are you holding this meeting and what do you want as the desired result?  State this right on the agenda, and at the start of your meeting. This creates focus and may stem the “squirrel” moments where people are tempted to go off script and agenda.
  2. Make the majority of your meeting about action – for items that are more informational versus action in nature, these can be communicated via email. Meetings should be about moving information forward. If your attendees need information before moving items forward, give them the information in advance if possible, as “homework” before the meeting.  Give them small bullet points about the information to spark memory recall, and then head into the action-oriented discussion.
  3. Eliminate agenda items that affect only 1-2 people – agenda items that only affect a small portion of the room can be taken offline, eliminating wasting everyone else’s time in the room.
  4. Death to the powerpoint – if you use powerpoint for your meeting, ensure it drives home important points and takeaways – do not put everything on the slides and simply read the slides – informational slides can be tended to offline via email.
  5. Create pre-meeting homework – I’m not going to make many fans here, but giving your meeting attendees homework to bring to the meeting has a few different effects:
    1. Creates understanding of the agenda and action items
    2. Pre-meeting reading materials to cut down on reading time during crucial meeting moments (see point #4)
    3. Creates buy-in for the meeting
    4. Moves agenda items further forward
  6. Manage the technology – if your attendees have their phones and laptops in the room, be clear about rules on the technology. Some industries and workplaces may allow for meeting attendees to tend to work-related distractions (they may be more important than the meeting agenda at hand).  However, when done effectively, a meeting can be a powerful Q2 strategic activity and technology should be managed to allow for attendees to give their full, undivided, creative attention.
  7. Effective facilitation – ensure your attendees stay on topic and do not allow for the conversation to organically veer off in different directions. If new ideas pop up during these segways, gently bring the conversation back to the agenda item, but acknowledge the new idea as something that will be tackled in a subsequent meeting or offline.
  8. Be selective with “weekly meetings” – ahhh, the weekly meeting. We all cannot wait for the weekly meeting!!  Hey, if there is value in the meeting and some action-oriented steps, then I’m all game.  However, to have a meeting because it’s a standing meeting in a calendar does no one any good.  Be protective of your time, and respectful of your colleagues time as well – their time may be better spent moving projects forward, rather than getting stalled out with a stale weekly meeting.

I realize some of these tips may fly in the face of what’s always been done in your organization or department, but hopefully its food-for-thought when you think about your people’s time and talents and how they should be best spent.  By employing these simple tips, your meetings may become more productive, energetic and have solid action-oriented take-aways for all your attendees.  You will be respected for the small changes you make to create a better internal meeting.  Good luck out there!

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