Meetings were designed to be effective ways for people to discuss ideas, identify obstacles, discover solutions and deliver positive outcomes. Most people would agree that meetings fall short of that objective. Attendees arrive with a vague idea of what is to be discussed. No schedule is available, and the discussion seems to bounce around like ping-pong balls. Eventually, people start checking their phones or making to-do lists instead of taking notes. When the meeting ends, everyone goes back to work with no idea what is happening next.
If in-person meetings are so dysfunctional, what happens when they become virtual? Individuals participating in online meetings experience the same shortcomings as in-person meetings with added distractions such as poor video-conferencing capabilities. With these difficulties, many people are wondering why they even have them. The problem isn’t meetings; it’s the lack of well-managed meetings.
Effective meetings take planning, and planning takes time, but using meeting management software can help. Whether it’s a weekly staff meeting or a project kickoff, every meeting should have an agenda that outlines meeting guidelines and timeframes.
Share an Agenda
A meeting agenda should set clear expectations. Each agenda item should have a time next to it that indicates how long that segment should last. It doesn’t matter how informal the meeting. Every meeting needs a plan. Agenda management software can make the process easier. It can help tailor agendas to match different types of meetings. Agendas for weekly staff meetings are going to be different from quarterly board meetings. At the same time, well-managed meeting agendas share the following characteristics:
- Include remote meeting tool. If some or all of the attendees will be remote, be sure to include the meeting tools to use. The agenda should provide information on how to log in. Include a link to information on how to use the tool. If software needs to be downloaded, include a link and ask that it be downloaded and configured before the meeting.
- Email the agenda before the meeting. Always send an agenda out at least 24 hours before the meeting. It allows participants to look over the topics and come prepared to discuss them. If deliverables are part of the meeting, distribute the agenda far enough in advance to remind people that their deliverables are coming due.
- Be flexible: Remote meetings typically take longer than in-person ones, primarily because of technical issues such as loss of audio or failure to unmute a speaker. Add a little time to the agenda to ensure everyone can adequately discuss all topics.
With meeting agenda software, planners can allow attendees to add points to the agenda before the meeting. This collaboration lets participants provide input into what the meeting should cover, which helps with engagement. The group may not cover all topics in a single meeting, so leaders may have to limit the size to keep the meeting length manageable.
Lead a Productive Meeting
A clear agenda is the first step to an effective meeting, but a meeting can still go sideways without the following:
- Allow time for “watercooler” moments. At the start of a meeting, set aside time for co-workers to catch up with each other. This time is critical when co-workers are no longer working in the same space. It allows people to connect on a personal level.
- Ensure everyone participates. Team meetings should be inclusive, so make sure everyone gets to speak. Take note of who hasn’t attended and ask them if they have any comments on a specific item or have anything to add.
- Set a timer. Stopping on-time is just as important as starting promptly. Attendees have other responsibilities so be respectful of their time. Set timers for each item on the agenda to ensure the meeting doesn’t take more time than planned.
- Use online meeting tools. Meeting tools can help make meetings productive, whether online or in-person. If using a virtual meeting tool, look at what features are available to help.
Some meeting management software has built-in timing features as well as recording or note-taking features. Such features make it easier to focus on a meeting’s content. If unsure about meeting tools, try a free meeting agenda and minutes software to see how they can help.
Distribute the Recap
Meeting responsibilities do not end when the meeting does. Organizers should send out a recap email that clearly and concisely summarizes the meeting and lists all follow-up assignments. It reminds attendees of what was discussed and allows feedback so points can be clarified if needed. Meeting management software can help ensure that a recap does the following:
- Provides action items. Recaps should identify all action items. Separating group items from individual assignments ensures that an assignment is not missed.
- Identifies key points. Highlight the critical points of the meeting. If there was a difference of opinion, be sure to include each side of the argument. Understand that a meeting recap serves as a historical record of what was discussed and how the group arrived at a consensus.
- Encourage comments. If possible, allow attendees to comment or clarify points in the recap. Creating a shared space for collaboration is an excellent way to keep people engaged before and after a meeting.
Using meeting management software is a great way to prepare and manage a meeting. The software provides a framework for effective and efficient meetings that increase productivity. Why not try a free trial of our meeting agenda, minutes, and management solution.