Holding meetings is necessary in almost every company regardless of size or industry. Many people would consider them a “necessary evil.” But meetings don’t have to be painful. There are ways to structure meetings within your company to make them productive and even enjoyable. A recent article from Harvard Business review gives six simple things you can do immediately to improve the meetings in your organization:
Focus on being present. Whether you are the one who called the meeting or you are just an attendee, as a leader you must set a good example by being 100% present. Take a few minutes to prepare before the meeting so you are relaxed and in the right mindset. Running in directly from another meeting may leave you distracted or still thinking about the previous meeting.
Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Avoid checking your phone. If you have your laptop out to take notes, shut down automatic notifications that may distract you, such as emails.
Demonstrate empathy. People want to know that you care. Being present will allow you to really pay attention to other individuals in the meeting, which is necessary to demonstrate empathy. Observe others, listen to what they say and ask thoughtful questions to show you are actively engaged in the discussion.
Set up and manage the conversation. Communicate your expectations for the meeting. You being present is a good start, but to the maximize efficiency of your meetings you need the other participants in the meeting to be present as well. Set guidelines for using phones, ask that technology that takes away from the discussion be put away and encourage people to ask questions.
Include enough time for each topic. Planning ahead and having an agenda is vital to a productive meeting. When you create your agenda, make sure to set aside enough time to cover each topic. Be mindful of the agenda throughout the meeting to keep the conversation moving so each topic gets adequate attention and the meeting ends on time. If you’re looking for a sample agenda, check out the template in our Effective Meetings Toolkit.
Slow down the conversation to include everyone. Take a moment to consider who has been participating in the discussion. Gently invite anyone who hasn’t had a chance to share their thoughts to speak up.
Choose specific times to pause and check in. Plan time for pauses and questions in your agenda. Take the time to ask if anyone has any questions or comments, especially when transitioning to a new topic. When you ask a question, allow people time to digest before expecting a response. Pausing shows that the topic is important enough to wait for a response.
Share these ideas with your team to help increase the effectiveness of your meetings immediately. It is about showing respect for the participants and taking advantage of time you have carved out to actually get things done. Have you tried this out? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.