Could your last meeting have been more productive? When you compare the time spent to the value you took away from it how does it look? Many of us come away from internal work meetings and even from client meetings feel frustrated not to have achieved more.
How does this happen? Often it’s because no one has properly led or chaired the meeting. Even worse we haven’t formally agreed action steps at the end. Have you ever compared notes with a colleague after a meeting only to discover that your understanding of the take-away is different? Have you attended a meeting when nobody seems to have done anything on the subject since the last meeting you had? I know I have!
In the old days every sales meeting would have been formally chaired and would have had a professional secretary taking minutes. As workplaces have got less formal and as modern technology has taken over perhaps we’ve misplaced something useful from the past.
How can we get the most from our modern meetings?
1. Make sure someone chairs every meeting. This includes formal team meetings right through to the impromptu get-togethers we have to discuss next steps on the account we’re working on.
Your role is to set the agenda, keep the meeting on track, stop people talking over each other, avoid the same subjects being covered twice (or more!) and negotiate commitments: what will be done, by whom and by when.
2. Clearly record all the commitments. Taking good meeting minutes not only makes time in meetings more worthwhile, it alleviates the pressure to remember everything. In good minutes, action steps are captured briefly and named individuals are reminded of the date to complete their tasks.
3. Use technology effectively. We may no longer have the luxury of a professional secretary but we do have tablets, smart phones and laptops which make it easy to take minutes and to send them out to everyone immediately.
4. If you are chairing, follow up. Clearly minutes with agreed actions are only of value if everyone follows though. If one person takes responsibility for completion, any unforeseen problems can be resolved and progress will continue to be made.
We all want to be part of successful and enjoyable meetings. Whether they are in-person, via the internet, or telephone we can achieve more and enjoy the meetings more by taking these simple steps.
Decades ago the workplace was more formal and starchy. We don’t need to go back to that style but perhaps we can reinvent the effective meeting for the modern age. If your meetings aren’t managed in this way it will take a bit of practice. But as we know we learn by doing. Practice holding your meetings this way and you’ll get good at it.
How would it feel when you invite people to a meeting and they all say “Yes”. It could happen if you are the person whose meetings are well run, fun to be part of and achieve their objectives.
By Dorothea Stuart, member of Toastmasters International, nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. Find your local club.