How to Have Better Meetings

Everyone dreads going to meetings at work.  When I speak to groups on communication and influence, business meetings always come up as one of the top things people complain about.  Most of us agree that we spend a lot of wasted time in meetings.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I ask people why they feel so negatively about meetings, I hear things like ‘they use up time I could be getting real work done’ and ‘we never make decisions’ and ‘it seems like we meet just to meet and nothing gets done’.  Surveys consistently show we often view meetings as a waste of time.  After suffering through many similar meetings (and causing others to sit through my horrible meetings) I set out to find a way to have powerful and impactful meetings.  Here are three steps that I uncovered that will help you have better meetings.

1) Start with a clear outcome.  Be crystal clear what you want to achieve in the meeting. Write down the outcome that you expect by the end of the meeting.  For example, is the outcome of the meeting to make a certain decision, begin a relationship, share specific information, to collect ideas or to close a sale?  Be very precise on the expected outcome.  This will help you know what to include in the agenda, how long to meet, who to invite and how best to go about achieving the expected outcome.  It will also prevent the meeting from going into unproductive topics and ‘rat holes.’

2) Check before the meeting.  A week or so before the meeting is scheduled, call a small sample of the planned meeting attendees.  If the meeting will be with about 10 to 15 people then you would call about 3 people.  In a quick 5 minute phone call, share your intended outcome for the meeting and ask the other person if they agree and also ask what result they would like to see from the meeting.  Make note of what the other people say.  Adjust what you have planned for the meeting if need be.  Thank them for sharing their thoughts.

3) Follow up after the meeting.  A day or two after the meeting, call the same people you spoke to before the meeting and ask how the meeting went.  Was it useful?  Was it a good use of their time?  Was the planned outcome achieved?  Use the feedback you get to adjust the actions from the meeting if necessary.  Also use the feedback to improve your future meetings.

If you try these three easy tips you will start influencing people in a very positive way.  They will be impressed that you took the time to phone them and ask their opinion.  They will notice that you are a person who cares about improving your performance and theirs.  Your meetings will be productive and the people who attend your meetings will remark on how much better they are than most meetings they attend.  Good luck!

Question: What tips can you share from your own experience with meetings?


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