As a young professional, chances are that you will spend a fair amount of time in meetings. 21st century employees have developed a love-hate relationship with meetings. On the one hand, meetings are a great opportunity to pull a team together to solve problems and generate ideas in an interactive manner. On the other hand, many meetings tend to veer off topic quickly and fail to accomplish their intended goals. The good news is that meetings do not have to be bland and unproductive. Implementing the following 5 strategies during your next meeting will help you get the most out of your meetings and minimize time-wasting.

1. Distribute the Agenda In Advance

Every meeting should have a stated purpose. Each meeting attendee should know exactly what the meeting will be about well in advance of the meeting. Usually, 24 hours ahead is a good time to distribute agendas.This will allow everyone time research and prepare necessary input. That way, everyone shows up to the meeting ready to have a meaningful dialogue.

2. Restrict the Number of Attendees

Some meetings do not require the entire team to attend. While it may be easy to send the meeting invitation to everyone on the email distribution list, being a little more selective with whom you invite can pay off in a big way. People tend to be more open and candid in small group settings than they are in large groups. Only invite the team members who are necessary to accomplish the goal of the meeting. Everyone else can be filled in later.

3.  Sideline off-topic conversations

As stated earlier, each meeting has to have a specific purpose. All discussions that take place during a meeting should be in alignment with the meeting’s purpose. You certainly want to welcome new ideas and perspectives, but not at the expense of the task at hand. If someone brings up a point that is sure to derail the meeting onto a time-consuming tangent, quickly suggest that the group table that topic for a more appropriate time. By sidelining potential tangents, you keep everyone focused on current mission.

4. Stay Within Your Time Constraints

It is extremely important to develop a reputation for starting and ending your meetings on time. If invitees know that they can trust you to respect their time, they will be more likely to show up on time and participate fully. Make sure you budget enough time to fully discuss each item on the agenda. A single meeting should generally be held to 60 minutes or less. So if you think your meeting will last longer than that, consider breaking the agenda into two parts so that you are not monopolizing too much of the participant’s time at once.

5. Give Out Homework

One of the problems with so many meetings is that nobody takes action on the topics discussed in the meeting. This leads to more dreaded “meetings about meetings” so that the team can be reminded what action items came out of a previous discussion. In order to avoid this situation, before ending every meeting, be sure to identify specific individuals to be responsible for any action items that come out of the meeting. Send out a followup email confirming each person’s commitment to each action, and go ahead and set up a time for a status meeting to make sure everyone is staying on track. Giving out homework at the end of each meeting is essential to making sure the time was well spent. After all, the goal of meetings is not simply to talk about plans and strategies. Meetings should be about implementing those plans and strategies. The homework is the implementation.

Featured photo credit: Benjamin Child via unsplash.com

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