Whether you’re a student or working professional you’ve likely been to a meeting that you felt was unproductive and didn't accomplish much.
When you are in charge of organizing meetings, it can be a challenge to organize and keep on track. Here are some tips that can help:
Though this tip sounds simple, failure to plan is an easy way to sabotage your meeting. If you don’t plan, the meeting might not meet your goals and could undermine your productivity.
Instead of winging it, set aside time in advance to figure things out. Think about what you’re going to go over when you meet. Your ultimate goal should be ensuring that you can address the who, what, when, where and why of your meeting in advance.
If you need help ensuring you set time for planning, try scheduling some reminders on your phone or computer. The key to all this planning is to ensure that you have time to breathe and gather your thoughts. Make it easy on yourself.
Create an Outline
While planning, be sure to write a brief outline of everything you’d like to address during your meeting. You don’t have to rigidly stick to it; in fact, it’s recommended you don’t! Meetings can often take unexpected turns, so a flexible outline that keeps you on track yet provides wiggle room is an excellent idea.
To achieve this, create an outline with at least the top three items you want to have addressed by the end of your meeting.
A good way to make an outline flexible is to list general topics rather than something specific. That way, you can add anything new to them should your meeting diverge a bit. For example, your goal could be to “come up with ideas for a marketing campaign.” This shows you want to have a concrete plan, but your open to other diverging options that could occur.
Of course, if your meeting is intended to create specific numbers and goals, be sure to make your outline with specific goals in mind. Ultimately, your outline should suit your needs first and foremost.
It’s best to write these outlines on paper since this forces your brain to slow down a bit and think about what you need to discuss. Plus, you can have the list written in front of you where you can take other notes to help you remember your discussions around your goals during the gathering.
This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges for people, as not many like to do it. Regardless, take notes and more importantly, take them by hand!
The main reason you should take notes is that information can be easily forgotten during longer meetings. The human brain tends to lose focus in longer sessions, resulting in foggy details when trying to recall information later. That’s where notes come in.
Generally, hand-written notes are better since they make you focus more on what’s going on rather than copying each word spoken when typing. In other words, typing often leads to passively listening while writing leads to active listening. A good way to think about this is you should remember concepts, not each word.
When you’re done with the meeting, you should take your notes and organize them on your computer in a digital format. Doing so will allow you to now have reminders in two formats. It will help you remember what needs to be done. You can even create an easily digestible to-do list out of them.
Choose an Effective Time
A lot of people don’t like morning meetings, and late meetings can be a problem too because everyone’s attention span has waned when they’re ready to go home. Lunchtime meetings can be problematic as well unless people are enjoying the lunch during the meeting.
Finding a balance between all of these times is key! If you choose a morning meeting, consider sometime from 10 to 11 a.m. For afternoon meetings, consider 1 to 4 p.m. These provide ideal windows to get things done without much distraction.
Of course, the structure of your company, those in attendance, and your work schedule can vary on an individual basis. Figure out what time works best for those who will attend the meeting.
Practice Time Management During the Meeting
Time management is such an important skill people rarely think about. Be sure you have some way of keeping time, whether it’s a clock in the room or your computer. Then, make sure you have enough time for each item on your outline.
If the conversation is getting out of hand, the leader should try to reach a solution, make a decision, or table the discussion for now. You can always schedule another meeting to address bigger issues that come up.
This is where your list can come in: cross it off as you watch that clock! If you have achieved everything on that list, odds are your time management skills are paying off.