For the past several months, I’ve been scouring the internet and quizzing my co-workers on best meeting practices and sharing them with my organization. After sifting through tons of articles and notes, I’ve chronicled my favorites below, along with some general existential questions I often ask myself.
1. Why am I here?
Is your goal to leave the meeting with a bunch of new ideas for a project? Or to have a final decision on how to move forward? Maybe you’re working on a proposal and need some constructive criticism. Or you just want to share your progress and hear how your colleagues are doing on their projects. Whatever your goal is, make sure that you communicate that to the participants in the meeting and construct an agenda that’s most likely to get you there.
2. What am I doing?
This one came up a lot – both in articles and in my conversations with co-workers. Agendas help people organize their thinking and make it a little easier to reign in off-topic conversations. Of course, you can’t always prevent your boss from asking you to set up a meeting with a list of people on a certain date and then walking away before telling you what the meeting’s about. But you can always follow up and later update the planner with an agenda or have one ready to share at the beginning of the meeting.
3. Who are these people?
Once you know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to do it, make sure you’re inviting the right people. Figure out who will have something to contribute to the conversation (if you’re not sure, go ahead and ask the person in advance). It’s always difficult to get on a department head’s schedule. Figure out if they truly need to be there, or if someone who reports to them can attend and fill them in later.
4. How will I accomplish everything in the limited time that I’m here?
I’m guilty of this one myself. My meeting agendas will often look like this: review project status, discuss upcoming performance evaluations, handle logistics for next week’s team-building exercise, and brainstorm new revenue suggestions. Guess which one constantly gets pushed to the next meeting or receives a rushed “analysis” in the last two minutes of a meeting. Don’t be like me. Dedicate some meetings to discuss day-to-day items and other meetings solely for long-term strategic issues.
5. Consider an optional meeting to review materials (couldn’t think of an existential question for this one)
Do you ever have the sneaking suspicion that no one has read the background materials for your meeting that you spent hours preparing? Mostly because someone says at the beginning of the meeting, “I haven’t had a chance to read the materials, but…” A colleague of mine invites participants to a half-hour, optional meeting before the main meeting to give them time to read the materials (or at least to remind them to do so). This seems like a great way to have more informed discussions at meetings.
Have you tried any of these? Have any other meeting tips that have worked for you? Please feel free to share them in the comments.