All about effective meetings and how to run them

Effective meetings

There are few things at work that stir up as many emotions as meetings. Perhaps it’s no surprise since they make up a huge part of our working day. And because of that, they should be conducted with finesse. Fortunately there are a few things that could quickly improve your meetings, with minimum effort. And we'll tell you all about them!

1. What makes meetings effective?

According to research presented in Forbes, the average employee spends about 62 hours in meetings every month. A collaborative study carried out by America Online and Salary.com showed that the average American worker was left with only three days per week to focus on their desk work. The rest of the working time was spent in meetings.

Given all of this, it isn't strange that many of us have a lot of feelings and opinions on the subject of meetings. So how did we get here? And how do we stop this meeting excess?

It's the quality, or lack off, that matters!

Having a lot of meetings isn’t all bad. Meetings are at the center of all organizations and we need them to discuss important issues and decide on how to move our business forward. Efficient meetings never annoyed anyone, right? What stirs up emotions aren’t the meetings themselves, but rather the poor quality of many of the meetings that we attend. A lot of meetings seem to be redundant or highly inefficient.

An unclear purpose

The study referred to above also showed that 50% of all meetings lack a clear purpose and goal. So how can you really tell that you achieved what you were set out to achieve with the meeting? 

Every meeting ever created should start with declaring why it exists. Even better, if you tell the participants in advance by giving them a clear agenda. That way they know what to expect and what to prepare for. 

Is this meeting even for me?

Furthermore, 33% of all meeting participants feel that they don't even have to be there. That’s one third of participants that could have spent their time doing something else. Luckily, following the first rule of a great meeting; a clear purpose and goal, participants will be able to tell in advance if the meeting is relevant for them to attend. 

What was said? And who's doing what?

If the purpose is clear and a goal has been set, the last trait of an inefficient meeting is the "what did we actually decide" issue? If nothing happens after the meeting, was there even a meeting? Documenting decisions and actions is essential for the follow up, and thus, the success of the meeting. Make sure everyone know who's doing what, and when. 

illustrated guide 7 keys to more efficient meetings

2. Be a great meeting facilitator

A team is never stronger than it's weakest link they say. So a great start to a meeting should be sharpening your skills as a meeting facilitator. Good news is: nearly everyone can become a better facilitator. You'll just need some practicing and testing. But don't worry, after trying out these five steps during your next couple of meetings, “facilitation” can definitely go up on your LinkedIn profile.

  1. Help everyone arrive prepared and focused
  2. Worship the agenda 
  3. Include and facilitate
  4. Keep calm and facilitate on 
  5. Collect wisdom for the future

These steps are a good start, but having a great facilitator on your team is never enough. If you're the only one sitting on the intel, confusion ensues. To learn more about the five steps and how you can introduce them to your colleagues, keep reading! 

3. The importance of a meeting agenda

It should be clear by now that unstructured, free-for-all meetings are everyone’s worst nightmare. No fun to attend, no fun to hold! Tim Ferris, serial entrepreneur, public speaker and the author of “4-hour Working Week”, is extra harsh when it comes to time wasted in unproductive meetings and writes: 

“I don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics or questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. ”

The solution is an agenda that is easy to follow and smooth in its follow-up. Following a clear agenda gives your meeting a beginning and an end. This means that your restless colleagues know when they can run free again, and the super pedantic ones know how to plan their afternoon of arranging pencils in order of size. Everybody wins! 

agenda-on-the-table

A well structured agenda lets every attendee know what will be discussed, and when. This means that no one is caught off guard. Monica has her charts ready to go and Steven knows when it's his turn to give his report! Your masterly composed agenda should include:

  • A clear purpose
  • Agenda items with a description
  • The estimated time for each item

Make sure all meeting participants get the agenda in advance. If you also encourage them to add additional information, the level of participation will increase. We are naturally prone to feel more passionately about something we took part in creating.

Want some help in how to create a meeting agenda? Why don't you download our free agenda template! 

Get the agenda template

4. The documentation and follow up

The golden circle of effective work ends with Review. What could we have done differently in order to better our performance? Same thing goes with meetings. Wrapping up all meetings with 5 minutes of "what did you think of this meeting" is ambitious, but trust us when we say that it will improve the quality of your meetings.

Who's doing what?

If you have ever heard of a guy called Steve Jobs, chances are that you've heard the expression DRI. DRI stands for Directly Responsible Individual and was a central part of Apples “accountability mindset”. It emphasizes the importance of appointing responsibility to one person for each action item that comes out of a meeting. This is really important for efficient meetings and we can’t stress it enough. Produce action items and appoint someone responsible for each action to make sure things get done.

meeting_through_the_glass

The follow up on actions - notes and minutes

Earlier we argued that producing action items with a DRI and a deadline is important for efficient meetings. This is definitely true, but what is also true, is that it's equally important to facilitate follow-ups on these action items. Say you’ve agreed to a number of action items and they’re all carefully documented, with DRI:s and deadlines in the meeting notes. You leave the meeting feeling pleased since you’ve managed to plan and run a meeting that turned out to be both efficient and productive. But a week or two later, when you all meet again for the next meeting, you realize that not even half of the action items have been completed. How could this happen? Everything is right there in the meeting notes?

The problem is that the meeting notes are either 200 emails down in everyone’s inbox or, best case scenario, on a shared folder somewhere. They’re not easy enough to access and when everyday work gets in the way, you forget about those meeting notes. You need someone or something to remind you of the notes and action items that you were assigned.

Another thing that tends to increase the level of on-time completed actions is transparency. If everyone involved in a project can easily follow the progress of that project, things get done. Transparency creates a sense of commitment and urgency that helps a group to deliver as a unit. Also, a little bit of monitoring might not always be a bad thing.

5. Choose the right tool for your meetings  

We can all need some help on the way sometimes, especially when it comes to meetings. Wouldn't it be great if there was some kind of software or app that could make it easier? Well there is, of course. That's what this segment is about! 

Finding the right tool to help you run efficient meetings is just as important as all the things previously mentioned. Because let's be honest, you're not going to do this on a piece of paper. Luckily there are many choices out there when it comes to digital tools for meetings!

a-girl-with-a-screen

Consider this

Finding the right tool for meetings will help your business grow and succeed. Before choosing the right tool for your team, ask yourself a couple of questions to help separate the wheat from the chaff:

  • What do our meetings lack right now?
  • Which aspect of our meetings can be improved?
  • Which features do we need? 
  • How would we integrate the new tool with other software?

When it comes to tools for meetings, less can often be more. Instead of a long list of features, focus on your core needs and think about whether the tool suits your team. Simple processes helps you much easier than heavy, feature-rich tools that maybe aren't designed for you in the first place.

Both startups and bigger corporations need tools that are designed just for them

The meeting tool you're looking for should be easy to use, easy to integrate and inclusive for all users. Once this has been taken into consideration, you should have an idea of what kind of tool you need. 

Our 4 favourite options

1. Word

A true classic! Word is a tool that most people are familiar with, so there’s no risk of creating a Word template that no one will understand how to use. It is a universal tool that doesn’t cost a fortune. Actually, chances are everyone at your office already has Microsoft Office installed. Word is a great tool when it comes to creating simple meeting agendas with a clean design that is easily updated on a regular basis. If you want to write longer reports and meeting summaries with classic headers and footers, a Word template will likely do the trick.

2. Outlook

Did you know that this handy email client can help you with more than sending lengthy emails? Its calendar function is an easy way to invite your team to meetings and to assign tasks during them. It even has a weather app built in! Could it be the right day for a meeting in the park? 

3. Meetings

Meetings is, as the name suggests, a tool built for efficient meetings! Built with users in mind, this tool closes any information gaps in your organization thanks to a transparent structure for follow-up. Meetings makes work-life simple by keeping all meeting agendas and assigned actions in chronological order, easy for everyone to access. 

You simply set up a meeting, send participants the agenda before hand, and then follow it during the meeting. After the meeting is over all participants get their personal to-do list sent to their email. An overall list of actions is also saved, with a handy filter to keep track on everyone's progress. Planning, doing and reviewing all in one easy-to-use software built for meetings! 

4. Google Docs

Google is of course one of the leading developers when it comes to, everything? The fact that they have an effective tool for meetings should be given! One of the tools in their toolbox is Google Docs. It's like a cloud-based Word, with documents that all invited guests can edit in real time. 

This tool is a great choice if you want your whole team to be involved during the meeting. Everyone can join in on their own screen and follow what you're writing down. It's all saved in the cloud and is ready to go from any device. Simple! 

Get the most value out of your meetings. Try Stratsys Meeting tool today.

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6. Different types of meetings

Let's take a look at some different kinds of meetings and how to run them in the most effective way!

The client meeting

Clients both potential leads and existing clients want to know that you care, that you’re detail-oriented and that you’re reliable. All of these things are easy to demonstrate in a concrete way. That’s how you make a great impression, get returning business, and land big deals. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Preparations
    Put as much effort into the preparation of a meeting as you would in summarizing it afterwards in your thank you email or follow-up proposal.
  2. Do what's decided and keep track of decisions
    Being reliable means that you do what you said you would. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to stand by the promises you made at your client meeting. But what were the promises? Noting discussion points and highlights is good, but the focus of your note-taking should be tasks and responsibilities. Be specific about writing down what was agreed, who is responsible for what, and — of course — follow up!
  3. Know your audience

    Client meetings can sometimes be awkward this simply comes with the experience of interacting with someone we don’t know well. The potential for weird pauses and misunderstandings also escalates dramatically when the client is from another country.

    But this doesn't have to be the case, you don’t have to walk into a meeting blind. It’s actually within your capacity to predict how the other party will think, act and behave in a meeting. Get more in-depth knowledge here, and shine in your next client meeting!  

The outdoor meeting

The benefits of being outdoors, with all that fresh air and vitamin D free for the taking, have long been known. It’s time we infused our meetings with nature’s inspiration-giving effects. With a little gumption and preparation, meeting organizers can seize the beauty of the season and change up the ordinary meeting environment — begetting fresh, happy minds and cohesive, happy teams. Let's find out how.

  1. Choose the right meeting - outdoor meetings isn't always the way to go
  2. Create structure - even if you don't have the agenda in front of you
  3. Choose the spot beforehand - so you don't have to spend time looking for that perfect park bench
  4. Enjoy the nature while your in it - don't start straight away, take a moment to embrace the outdoors
  5. Follow up immediately - or you'll forget what was said


The screens-down meeting

For better and for worse, the multiplicity of screens is now a fact of modern life. And of modern meetings too. No harm there: web-connected devices are indispensable tools for recording and sharing ideas. The trouble comes when select meeting participants disappear into screens, which is a common and unfortunate phenomenon these days. They might think they’re multi-tasking, but there is unfortunately no such thing. Ask science. 

This behavior drains energy, wastes time and feels unfair to the other people that are actually listening and contributing. But you can make it stop. Read all about how to facilitate a screens down meeting here.

The virtual meeting

We've gathered our top tips for running awesome virtual meetings, a form of meeting that demands a bit more from the facilitator. Firstly, important for all meetings, consider the limited time in a day. Meaning, don’t let time go to waste in poorly thought out, poorly led meetings. Step up, prepare and have a game plan to make sure everyone can obtain maximum value in the least amount of time. You'll find all of our tips here.

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