How to Avoid These 4 Common Meeting Mistakes - Docket

How to Avoid These 4 Common Meeting Mistakes

Meetings can take up a large chunk of a workday, and if not executed appropriately, can cut into your productivity. In our interview with design agency CEO Steven Pruden, we discuss how the buck doesn’t stop at just inviting key stakeholders to a meeting, but making sure these stakeholders:

  • Are present: Is everyone who needs to be in this meeting available?
  • Are prepared: Does everyone have the information they need to bring their action-items/questions/comments to the meeting?
  • Know the end goal: Was is the point of this meeting? Have a clear goal(s) set for the meeting conclusion (i.e. approval on a specific item, buy-in for a new project or idea, etc.)

Not having these bullets defined and flushed out can create poor meeting habits, driving down not only workplace productivity, but overall morale. If a meeting isn’t driving any value to the host or its attendees, that negative energy can trickle through the rest of the organization.

There are several common meeting mistakes that can easily be solved for so your meeting stakeholders are entering meetings prepared and leaving energized and equipped with action items that move projects forward. We’ve broken down four of them below.

Mistake #1: Not being clear on a meeting’s purpose

This seems obvious, but it’s surprising how often a meeting’s core focus is overlooked. Whether you’re the meeting organizer or attendee, a meeting’s purpose and desired outcome should be clear when invites are sent. Here’s an example of a poorly-executed meeting agenda sent out to attendees:

Meeting title: Marketing weekly sync

Meeting agenda: Recap current activities and campaigns

Here’s where the gaps are in this all-too-common meeting format:

  • What are we syncing on? Progress? Needs? Hurdles?
  • What is each attendee responsible for? Do they need to provide an update on each current project, or specific ones? How does each attendee know how to prepare and what they need to bring to the table?
  • What if there are so many activities and campaigns, there isn’t enough time to review all of them? How are they set in priority prior to the meeting to ensure the most critical are discussed first?

Here’s why the above bullets are so important to flush out: A clear understanding of why the “weekly sync” is needed helps define what specifically each attendee needs to prep for the meeting in order to provide value to all meeting stakeholders (and themselves!) Here’s an example of what this meeting title and agenda should look like:

Meeting title: Marketing weekly sync: Q2 projects progress

Meeting agenda: Recap current activities and campaigns for Q2 to ensure we’re on-target for our goals:

  • Goals:
    • Ensure Darin/Heather have everything they need to hit Q2 goals
    • See if any of Heather’s lead generation campaigns can help drive event registrations.
  • Darin: Please bring updates on the Q2 conference
    • Any budget approval required?
    • Will we hit our registration goal by our deadline?
    • Do you have any hurdles you need assistance with?
  • Heather: Update on lead generation activities for Q2
    • Which campaigns are currently running, and which ones are planned?
    • What are our lead goals for each campaign?
    • Are we on track to hit our Q2 lead goal?
  • Last 5 minutes:
    • Recap next steps; any additional questions

Creating an agenda with a clearly-stated purpose that’s shared in advance helps to convey the reason for the meeting and add value to the work attendees are doing/working towards.

Mistake #2: Assuming someone else is taking notes

Best practice is to always make sure you’re taking your own notes in a meeting. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Your action items may be different than others;
  • Your needs may be different than others;
  • We all hear things differently: Multiple perspectives on a topic or action item can be a good thing—this is how hiccups, gaps, or additional needs are caught and addressed;
  • Other attendees scribing may not be the SME (subject matter expert) who can most effectively articulate the issue, action, or decision being discussed to a larger audience.

In addition to taking your own notes, share meeting minutes templates and have a collaborative space where all attendees can upload their findings/next steps to be sure everyone’s on the same page moving forward.

Mistake #3: Not leaving time to recap decisions

This is an easy mistake to fix. It’s essential to leave five minutes at the end of a 30-minute meeting, or 10 minutes at the end of an hour-long meeting, to recap decisions and action items to make sure everyone is aligned. Make sure this expectation is set when the meeting invite goes out by including it on the agenda. Using a timer or assigning a meeting moderator to keep time can’t hurt to make sure this isn’t overlooked, too.

Mistake #4: Not keeping all related content for the meeting together

This last mistake can be solved for by avoiding mistakes 1-3 in this list. There can sometimes be four to five meetings in a single day, and even the most organized of team members can have a difficult time retaining everything discussed (or time to digest every important piece of information.) Making sure meeting agendas are clear with distinct goals and taking notes in each and every meeting are the first steps towards success.

The last step is to make sure it’s easy to search and find meeting information at any time. Meeting recaps may also include actual files like contracts, SOPs (standard operating procedures), internal documents, etc., so making sure those are easily accessible is just as important. Do you have your own success strategies for meetings? Tweet us your tips @docketmeetings!

About the Author

Heather Hansson

Heather is VP of Product and Chief of Staff at Docket. She enjoys leading cross-functional teams to work together on vision, strategy, and implementing solutions that help people work and live better. When she isn’t helping rid the world of wasteful meetings with Docket, Heather likes to run, take violin lessons with her son, and spend time with her family.

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