Tips and Tools for Successful and Effective Meetings - Docket

Tips and Tools for Successful and Effective Meetings

Ways to make better meetings that are more effective, productive, and successful

Holding a productive meeting involves more than just having and sticking to the agenda. While an agenda is vital to having a good meeting, there is an array of factors that determine the quality of a meeting.  This begs the question, what makes a successful meeting? Apart from leaving participants feeling that they have taken part in a sensible process, successful meetings should achieve the set objectives within a minimum duration. With businesses spending as much as $37 billion annually on meetings, it is no wonder that companies and individuals are looking into how to make meetings effective.

Luckily, the internet is awash with effective meetings guidelines, meeting minutes templates, meeting management PDF’s, and effective meetings PPT’s that educate people on how to make meetings better. An effective meeting ought to bring people together for an explicit purpose and provide them with an open forum where they can discuss things.

This post provides you with effective meetings tips that are sure to make various types of meetings such as formal, team, and business meetings better and even fun.

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Steps and how-tos on how to conduct or run a better meeting

This section seeks to answer one major question: What are the steps to conduct a meeting? While this provides general meeting management suggestions, companies and individuals may pick and tweak the suggestions that fit their own culture.

How to conduct a meeting step by step

1.    Have an agenda An agenda refers to the list of key items that should be discussed in the meeting. When deciding on the agenda item’s the meeting’s chairperson should critically evaluate whether the issues can be addressed out of the meeting setting. One way of conducting effective meetings is by following Robert’s rule of order, especially when it comes to formal and business meetings. The agendas produced and circulated way before the meeting is held. This way, participants can arrive at the meeting, knowing exactly what is to be discussed and having researched so that they can provide meaningful contributions.

2.    Come up with the list of attendees Only people who are relevant to the agenda issues should be invited to the meeting.

3.    Maintain control When there is a quorum, the chairperson should begin by saying, “we are meeting here today to accomplish the following objectives.”  The moderator is responsible for making sure that each agenda item is discussed and that participants do not get off-track. During the meeting, the moderator should also ensure that each participant’s opinion is heard while still observing timeliness. The chairperson should thank the attendees for their participation and presence at the end of the meeting.

4.    Follow up The chairperson or whoever had summoned the meeting should come up with and distribute an action list that summarizes what areas were covered, what was resolved, and a way forward for issues that require further clarification.

5.    Avoid holding meetings unless it is necessary You shouldn’t conduct a meeting simply because you have a rule that you should hold one every fortnight. If there is nothing significant on the agenda, cancel the meeting.

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Strategies and guidelines to help you run better team meetings

When conducted well, meetings are an effective way to gather a consensus on a key decision, build networks and camaraderie among team members, and find solutions to issues. Keys strategies for leading effective and better meetings include:

Establish the meeting’s goal and purpose While this might appear obvious, lots of meetings commence without a clear sense of purpose. This provides participants with a script or a compass that participants can follow and return to if they digress.

Encourage open discussions among participants Most meetings are ineffective because conversations are one-sided. Everyone, apart from those with something to contribute or those who are eager to be heard, should contribute. One way of achieving maximum participation is by having agenda items headed by participants.  

Concentrate on the meeting This not only refers to sticking to agenda items but also to other distractions such as phones or personal computers. The moderator should ask participants to switch off their mobile phones or any other devices so that they are fully present. Most meetings are ineffective, long, and tedious because in most cases, participants are too busy multitasking rather than paying attention to the issues being discussed.

End the meeting with an action plan In most cases, at the end of the meeting, participants have no idea what to do other than wait for the next meeting. Effective meeting strategies pdf recommend that the chairperson goes over what has been discussed, what the conclusions are, and what is expected of the participants.

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How to run effective team meetings

A team has to work on a common goal despite being from different geographic locations, having varying personalities, angles, and objectives. Whether it’s in a business setting, the workplace, or even a school, team meetings are an effective way of setting team goals and objectives as well as reviewing progress. Holding effective team meetings is an art that has to be learned.

First team meeting ideas

The objective of the initial meeting is to provide the team with a vision. The first meeting sets the tone for the kind of environment the team should anticipate in future meetings. Rather than just stating objectives, the chairperson should first seek to cultivate trust between team members. This is the best time for team members to get to know each other.  

Productive team meetings should give everybody a safe environment where they can share ideas. This encourages the team to open up to each other, resulting in higher productivity and cooperation. It also provides a platform through which team members can get feedback on their performance.

How to run effective business meetings

Inadequate preparation, too many meetings, zoning out because of a lack of interest are only some of the problems that plague business meetings. This section provides you with insights on how to run a business meeting.

  • Minimize the number of meetings by finding alternative ways to address issues. Such could include sending emails or memos.
  • Managers should create a culture where meetings are respected and valued. For example, closing the door as soon as the meeting starts and not waiting for latecomers sends out the message that meetings are important.
  • While last-minute meetings are in some cases necessary, they should only be held when there is an emergency. Managers should avoid extending meetings beyond business hours.
  • Following Robert’s rule by sending out action-oriented agenda items is also an effective way of ensuring a business meeting’s effectiveness. The moderator should allocate specific timeframes for each topic. This ensures that the meeting stays on track.
  • Having someone record the discussions during a business meeting is ideal as these can be used for future reference.  

How to conduct effective formal meetings

Formal meetings are normally held to debate on internal issues or to finalize pertinent strategies between departments or business owners. Planning meetings, review meetings, and annual general meetings are examples of formal meetings. Normally, there has to be a certain number of participants present for the participants to conduct valid business.

How to conduct a formal meeting

For a formal meeting to be effective, participants have to observe the following:

  • Punctuality – a formal meeting should have specific measures of good protocol and discipline, one of which is punctuality. Starting the meeting on time ensures that all agenda items are discussed within the predetermined schedule.
  • Preparedness – every participant in a formal meeting should be aware of the meeting’s core purpose. If they are not, the chairperson should take the first few minutes briefing them about the issues at hand. If need be, the management needs to ensure that equipment such as notebooks, whiteboards, markers, projectors, and so on are available and set up at the venue.
  • Safe environment – since participants have different temperaments, the chairperson or moderator should encourage participants to voice their disagreements positively and constructively.
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Agendas and templates that help you run effective meetings

The meeting agenda is one of the key things that make a meeting effective. Even a simple meeting agenda must be well thought. The person in charge must know the type of meeting and its theme. For instance, they may need to ask questions such as will the group or a single individual be making the decisions? Is the meeting about brainstorming a novel product or service? Who are the participants?

Come up with an agenda template or use a tool like Docket to list all items of discussion and allocate the time for each. The agenda items largely depend on the meeting’s purpose. Luckily, there are business meeting agenda samples, first meeting agenda templates, team meeting agenda templates, weekly team meeting agenda templates, and other resources, so that you do not have to begin from scratch.

Skills to drive better meetings

Better meetings are all about setting the pace to accomplish things and move tasks forward. People normally embrace meetings that will help them do their jobs as opposed to wasting their time. Unfortunately, managers are often the key reason why meetings are dysfunctional.

Meeting facilitation skills

Better meetings have facilitators who get everyone involved, identify, and solve problems. This makes everyone feel that they are part of a team and nurtures an environment where they can come up with creative solutions.

The manager should also set an example of active listening. Other meeting facilitation skills include; asking questions, taking note of non-verbal communication cues, conflict resolution, and consensus-building skills.

The importance of meeting skills training

Anyone interested in improving their skills in the management of meetings or understanding their individual or others participation should consider undertaking a meeting skills training. Such training covers such areas as:

  • Setting realistic agendas and how to begin meetings with a purpose
  • How to ensure engagement and focus in a meeting
  • How to manage behaviors or situations that could create disharmony or disrupt the meeting
  • How to close meetings effectively by ensuring actions are delegated and commitments made

Knowing how to run better meetings may appear unattainable, especially if a company has already developed a default way through which they conduct meetings. However, meeting only when it is necessary, coming up with a solid agenda, preparing participants, ensuring active participation, and being inclusive are factors that change the way people feel about meetings.

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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