Meetings can be fun and highly effective, but an inefficient one can be a drain on your time, especially if you’re busy…
Whether it’s a quick team meeting or one that requires brainstorming or strategic discussion there are some rules you can follow to make it successful. This is especially the case now that so many of us are only in the office for a part of the week or working remotely.
Organisations spend roughly 15 percent of their time on meetings with a third of those meetings considered unproductive, according to Zippia research. Interestingly, a survey by Dialpad found that over 75 percent of people prefer scheduling meetings on a certain day or time, with Mondays as the most popular day to schedule meetings and Wednesdays seeing the longest.
Running a Successful Meeting
It’s not enough to just gather people in a room (real or online) and hope for the best! We’ve done a lot of research here at the DMI into how meetings work and the best way to run them. We share with you here 9 simple tips to help you run an effective meeting (virtual or otherwise).
1. Set a clear agenda
When you are time-starved and have lots to do (like most marketers) a meeting without a purpose is a drag. Send an agenda before the meeting so people know what to expect and if they need to prepare any information.
You can also have it displayed on a screen or even printed (for a face-to-face meeting) to make things move along smoothly. This is particularly important for online meetings where people work remotely and might be out of touch with a campaign or project.
It helps to steer the meeting back on track if it’s going off on a tangent or breaking into smaller discussions.
For example; you can say “That’s a great idea, but not one for right now. Let’s add it to the next X meeting for discussion.”
Too often meetings can go off on a tangent and the purpose gets lost which can be frustrating for attendees. The facilitator should share an agenda in advance so attendees come prepared and cover what's needed in the allocated time and avoid meetings running over.
- Orla Stack, Human Resources Director at the Digital Marketing Institute
2. Know your desired outcomes
From the outset, you should know what you want to get from the meeting. Are you looking for ideas? Do you need to get a budget approved? Is it to provide support for team members on a challenging project?
Be clear on what you want and work through the meeting to make sure you get outcomes from it. The last few minutes of the meeting should be used to go through the next steps and assign people to undertake them. It helps you lay down a clear action plan everyone is aware of.
You should also ensure that everyone invited has a part to play or is involved in the team or project. Don’t waste anyone’s time if they could be doing other things.
3. Find the right environment
Today, with remote and hybrid working, meetings can take place anywhere. The key is to decide on the best medium for the meeting whether online is enough or if you need to have it in person.
Operational meetings can be managed quickly online. For example, a daily or weekly team catch-up or sprint can easily be managed by doing a roundtable and leaving time for any queries at the end.
Business builder meetings can also be managed remotely as long as you have a clear agenda in place. Use screen share for sharing presentations, slides, or visuals to help ensure everyone has access to the information.
Strategic direction meetings are focused on reflection, new ideas, and brainstorming so are probably better suited to an in-person meeting. Think about the colleagues that need to be involved and see what can work for everyone. There should be room for accommodating people’s situations (such as giving plenty of notice so remote workers can commute to the office), but don’t lose sight of the purpose and desired outcomes.
4. Prepare talking points
If you’re leading a meeting that requires ideas or brainstorming, you should bring key talking points to the table. These will be directed by the project and outcomes but can act as a crib sheet during the meeting if you find things are getting off-subject.
You could put questions on a whiteboard and ask people their opinions.
For example; if it’s a meeting to discuss a marketing campaign that underperformed, ask questions such as “What did you like about the campaign?” Or “What could we have done better?”
This technique may give you lots of answers but it gives you a chance to see if there’s a consensus in the room that you can use to feed into other campaigns or drive performance.
5. Give everyone a chance to speak
While everyone has a role and job title, these can be put to one side for the sake of the meeting. It can be limiting to try and innovate or strategise if everyone sticks to their own remit e.g. the marketing manager can only talk about marketing.
Be mindful of who is at the meeting and let people speak. Remember that everyone is different. Some people are more vocal whereas others may need prodding to give opinions. Take the lead and ask questions of team members if you feel they haven’t had a chance to contribute.
It’s often about managing personalities so if you feel if one or two people are dominating the conversation, change tack by asking questions or opening the floor. In an online meeting, think about having the camera on as it is more personable, using mute so the person talking can speak uninterrupted and use the ‘hands up’ function or equivalent to let people ask questions or chime in.
Preparation makes for better collaboration in meetings and persistence in following up makes for better results after meetings
- Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute
6. Encourage ideas & solutions
If your meeting is about finding solutions or generating ideas, kick it off like that. In advance of the meeting, ask people to write down 2 or 3 ideas.
Then go round the table and ask people to share those ideas. After each one, ask for opinions and feedback and then note them down (or have the designated note-taker do). Don’t focus on the person saying the idea but on the idea itself.
You could do the same for solutions to challenges.
For example; “We struggle to engage young people from 18-25 years of age, what can we do to reach them?”
By asking people to do this in advance you’ve given them time to prepare and not be caught off guard. It will also allow people less inclined to speak up an opportunity to have their say.
7. Be mindful of the time
It’s so easy for meetings to run over time. If you’ve put a time slot in people’s agenda, remember they have planned other things around it, so it’s your responsibility to be mindful of it.
Start on time and end on time, be consistent and others will come to know they need to respect the meeting time slot. It’s about building consistency and ensuring that people know what to expect at each meeting, i.e. it won’t run over into other work or make someone miss the start of another meeting!
If you’re having a longer meeting, include some break times, even for a quick email check or coffee top-up as it gives people a chance to refresh and regroup.
I've never been a fan of long meetings cramped up in offices. (Standing during meetings) is a much quicker way of getting down to business, making a decision, and sealing the deal.
- Richard Branson
8. Define clear next steps & actions
The end result of a successful meeting is clear steps and actions. Take time at the end of every meeting to clarify the next steps. Also, make sure to end on a positive note so everyone goes away feeling energised.
This should involve a task and then someone assigned to that task. Let everyone in the meeting contribute or if it’s obvious that a certain task is part of someone’s role just say “Is it okay if I assign that one to you X?”
After the meeting, it’s important to share notes or outcomes so there’s no miscommunication and everyone is aware of what actions they’re responsible for. It can be helpful to have the notes in a shared document or folder so everyone can keep track of the latest updates.
In the words of Dave Behan from DMI, “one of my key focuses in project meetings is to record tasks/outcomes directly back into our project management system, whether it’s for me or someone else. We’ll pick up those actions in the project review meetings and this ensures they are followed up and items don’t slip through the cracks.”
You should also include deadlines so people have a timeline to work towards. If it’s not achieved it can be discussed in the next meeting as to what the barriers were and see if that person requires support or guidance.
9. Ask for feedback
While you may think a meeting went well or daily catch-ups are very productive, others may not feel the same.
Choose a timeline you’re comfortable with and ask people for feedback. A month is usually a good time span to give people a chance to gauge the effectiveness of a meeting.
Don’t put pressure on anyone to give their opinion but simply open it up to everyone and put a positive spin on it.
For example; “Is there anything you think would make these meetings better or more useful for you?”
It’s also worth looking at how many meetings people are attending – like a meeting audit. Some people prefer to have no more than three meetings a day to be productive. So ask yourself, are people finding it hard to do work and attend meetings?
If so, it could be counterproductive and lead to an imbalance that causes stress or burnout. At DMI we instituted a policy of “no-meeting Wednesdays” to help our team balance work in meeting time versus desk work.