Meetings are an inescapable part of most jobs, but their usefulness tends to split opinions. Some treat them as a necessary evil, others try to avoid them whenever possible and, of course, a few can’t get enough of them. However, most people would agree that an effective, efficient, well-run meeting is something to be welcomed.
What makes a good meeting?
So how do you deliver a meeting that achieves its specific objectives, encourages open discussion, and delivers tangible results in as short a time as possible? In the era of hybrid working, this is an issue that also applies to virtual meetings, which can turn a day of focused work into a series of Zoom calls that eat up the hours.
The ideal meeting is one that stays on track, includes only the people whose presence is truly needed to cover the topic at-hand, and achieves the objectives laid out beforehand. Let’s take a look at some helpful tips to ensure you make the most of your time collaborating together.
Do you actually need a meeting?
Start with this big question. We’ve all attended meetings that could easily have been an email or brief discussion on a forum like Slack. Before arranging a meeting, take a step back and ask yourself if it really is necessary.
A meeting will be necessary if it’s more likely a decision will be made or an outcome achieved if everyone is talking in-person rather than exchanging messages online. Furthermore, the travel time required for a face-to-face meeting needs to be justified by the objective of said meeting.
In-person meetings might be best when work is ongoing and collaboration is required to get it over the finishing line. A virtual meeting could be good for a presentation of recent work and when questions are expected. No meeting could be the option when individuals just need to review a piece of work before it’s finalized.
How to prioritize productivity
Nobody’s going to knock you for spending the first few minutes of a meeting catching up with your coworkers while waiting for the rest of your attendees to join. That being said, be mindful of everyone’s time and avoid getting too off-topic from your stated objectives. Always bring the meeting back to your goals and what you are trying to achieve. Is there a structure to the meeting, or is it likely to descend into a free-for-all? Focus on the things that matter.
How to organize a successful meeting
- Work out who really needs to attend: too often, not everyone on a meeting invite really needs to be there. Send out invitations based on necessity rather than politics. Fewer people also makes it easier to arrange a time and location that suits all. Make sure that the details of the meeting are available afterwards if anyone else does want to find out what happened.
- Schedule effectively: everything you need for a meeting — from booking a time and space, to ordering equipment — needs to be efficient and cost-effective. Meeting room booking solutions offer businesses the opportunity to create a culture of better meeting management.
- Focus on time: look at the reason for your meeting and set the length of time accordingly. Research shows that the average duration of a meeting is 31 to 60 minutes. In reality, the average attention span is just 10-18-minutes. Consider shortening your scheduled meeting times wherever possible. Are your current agendas trying to cram too much into a single meeting? Might it be more effective to break some of those meetings into shorter, more focused sessions with more specific attendees? Find out more about meeting length in this article.
- A meeting room fit for purpose: what kind of equipment and space do you need for your meeting to be effective? Presentation tools should be easy-to-use and ready-to-go. IT should be able to set up any required equipment in advance so nobody is kept waiting. For say, a big client meeting, you’ll want to make sure you book a larger — and perhaps more impressive — space than you would for smaller, internal team gatherings. If it’s a one-on-one discussion, consider non-traditional options. Would it be beneficial to meet off-site, in a less formal setting like a coffee shop?
- International considerations: many businesses operate on a multinational basis and accessibility is a key issue when some are present in the meeting room and others are on another continent. This may require a simple conference call telephone or a more complex solution such as video conferencing. If the latter, try user-friendly screen-sharing tools such as Zoom or Skype for Business. Most importantly, make sure your meeting rooms are properly equipped to host these kinds of video conference calls with the right audio and visual tools.
How to keep people engaged
Finally, ensuring meeting participants are alert and listening at all times is a major challenge. One of the best ideas is to book your meeting when people are ready to work. 4pm on a Friday is usually a graveyard slot when everyone is thinking about the weekend. During the meeting, encourage participation and eliminate distractions. Laptops and phones should be off whenever possible.
Managing a meeting effectively is crucial in the age of hybrid working, when people want the space to be more productive and meeting in-person is more of an event than the everyday reality it used to be. By making sure everyone gets the most out of their time and collaborates effectively, you will be helping your business make the most of our increasingly flexible world.