The Best Tips for Managing Meetings Productively: How to Prepare and Stay Focused

What's the best way to manage meetings? I asked myself this question a few weeks ago when I looked at some of my upcoming meeting schedules. The answer is simple: preparation!

I have been attending meetings since I started working in the corporate world over 35 years ago. And while I am not sure that any particular technique or method has performed better than another, there are certain things that I have learned along the way which can help you prepare for your next meeting.

Meetings are an unfortunate reality for many of us. It's frustrating to have to sit through a meeting where you don't know the purpose, or when the person leading the meeting is asking questions that nobody can answer, or you're waiting for somebody who isn't there. But meetings can also be productive and fun if they're done correctly. Here are some tips for managing meetings in the most effective way possible:

 

What should be Included in an Agenda?

A meeting agenda should include a list of topics (and who will cover them) and a rough time frame for each agenda item. For example, here is an agenda for one of our weekly team meetings:

Topic 1: Project Update __________________

Who will present: _____________

When will it take place: ______________

Topic 2: Team Performance Review _________________

Who will present:____________________________________

When will it take places: ___________________________

Topic 3: New Business _______________________________

Who will present:_______________________________

When will it take takes place: ___________________________

 

Who should Attend the Meeting?

For most meetings, it's usually best to invite as many people as you need to make the decision and those who that decision will impact. Depending on the topic, you might want to invite the people responsible for the project. If the meeting involves brainstorming ideas, you may invite anyone who has thoughts on the subject. You might even want to ask someone from outside the company to bring fresh eyes to the situation.

Before the meeting, send out an email with a list of topics and discussion points. Make sure everyone knows what the meeting is about and why they're invited.

 

In-person Meeting vs. Video Conferencing

If you can, try to schedule all of your meetings in person. This allows you to get to know the other people involved in the meeting. It will enable you to see their body language and hear how they speak. It's also helpful to be able to look up and down at the presenter. When you meet face-to-face, you'll be able to ask follow-up questions and engage more fully in the discussion. However, sometimes scheduling a meeting in person is impractical. In this case, consider setting up a video conference instead.

Video conferencing software makes it easy to connect multiple locations so that participants can participate remotely. Some of these services allow you to record the session so that you can review it later. Other features include screen sharing, whiteboard tools, and chat rooms.

 

How to Stay Focused during a Meeting 

Distractions and lack of focus make meetings waste time and inefficient use of the participants' time.

The best way to stay focused during a meeting is by eliminating distractions.

Distractions like checking your phone, turning your attention to other people in the room, or looking around the room are all things that will take your attention away from the meeting.

If you can eliminate these distractions, you'll be able to stay focused during the meeting.

Another way to stay focused is by planning ahead for the meeting. Planning entails creating an agenda or presentation materials before the meeting starts. This will allow you to stay on topic during the meeting and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

If you plan ahead for the meeting, you'll also be able to stay focused because you'll already know the purpose of the meeting.

 

Be Respectful

While some people think that talking over each other is part of being assertive, it's actually disrespectful.

You don't have to interrupt others while they're speaking. Wait patiently until they finish speaking and then respond.

No matter how attractive your idea is, keep it short.

 

Include Everyone in the Decision Making

When making decisions, everyone's opinion must be included.

It takes a lot of energy and effort to get to yes when there are dissenting opinions. The more people that participate in the conversation, the better chance you have of reaching a consensus. Including everyone doesn't mean that everyone agrees with every idea. Instead, it means that every person should feel heard.

 

Keep Track of Time. 

The first tip for managing meetings more effectively is to keep the conversation on the topic. One of the most common problems in meetings is that people start talking about something tangentially related to the meeting's subject. Most people will begin to lose interest, and it can derail the meeting.

To avoid this, make sure you are clear on what the meeting is about before it starts, and make sure you are clear on the objective of the meeting before it starts. You should also make sure to stick to the agenda.

 

Stand-up Meetings

A stand-up meeting is where you gather people in one place, either onsite or online, to discuss ideas and come to decisions. Stand-up meetings are great because they give everyone equal attention, and everyone has the opportunity to contribute their thoughts.

However, there are some downsides to them as well. It can be challenging to decide who gets to speak depending on the number of people present at the meeting.

 

Take Notes 

No matter how productive a meeting is, it will eventually end. It's essential to take notes to remember the meeting and be able to reference those notes in the future.

You can take notes with pen and paper, or you can use a laptop or PC. Make sure to take down the date, time, place, and attendees. You can also take notes on any agreements or decisions made during the meeting. When taking notes, it's important to be mindful of the meeting's purpose and focus on what is being discussed.

When taking meeting minutes, you should also remember that you might need to share these with others. When recording conversations, it's important to provide a summary and not just transcribe what was said. When summarizing, make sure to include your opinion and ask yourself if this summary would be helpful to the person who will read it.

 

Conclusion

Meetings are an inevitable part of the business. That's why it's important to stay on topic, be prepared, and be respectful. When you do that, you'll be left with productive and fruitful meetings.

Six Sigma Black Belt


  • Course based on ASQ CSSBB Body of Knowledge.

  • 30+ hours of videos, quizzes and notes

  • Get this $200 course for just $59.99 today.


Learn More ...