AUTHOR: Saima Omar

"Not another meeting…"

Admit it. Everyone, at some point, has had this thought at least once...

You check your Monday morning calendar and you see: meetings, meetings and more meetings. Sometimes it feels like people are arranging meetings just to talk about having meetings. We wondered, why are people so disheartened by meetings? Do meetings ruin productivity?

The conclusion we came to is, maybe, people feel unmotivated by meetings, because they don't follow a structure or agenda. Calling a meeting for every small decision isn't necessary, but having a plan for your meeting, to cover all of the relative items is better than having lots of little meetings.

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Meetings are an important part of managing projects

As project manager, between frequent team briefs, planning events and projects, brainstorming, and project check-ins, it probably feels like half of your office day is filled up with meetings. So, whether you're organising the meeting or simply participating in them, how can we make sure we get the most out of them?

As a project manager, holding infrequent but productive meetings is a great shout for keeping all team members up to date on timelines, deadlines and workload.

Since meetings take up so much of our working hours, it's better to ensure that maximum productivity is achieved, by ensuring the meeting is structured, has an agenda to guide the meeting and people have fewer questions after the meeting than when they walked in.

Here are some simple methods for holding effective meetings so everyone walks in knowing what to discuss and walks out knowing what happens next.

1. If you don't prepare, you're preparing to fail: Define the reason and goal of your meeting

Define the reason for your meeting and what you want to achieve at the end of it

Holding meetings and executing them successful is part and parcel of managing projects. However, when you've decided to call a meeting with your team, don't even bother sending a calendar invite yet. First and foremost, ask yourself, what is the purpose, and what do you want to achieve? For example, the purpose could be to identify the workload for your team members in the commencing week, and then delegate more work to those who have a lighter workload.

The goal could be to determine deadlines and who's responsible for each milestone. Alerting your team of this prior to a meeting, means they come prepared and you're prepared with a list of jobs that need distributing. Once you've finalised the purpose and goal, then you can start working your scheduling magic.

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2. Decide who you want to invite

Think about who will contribute to the meeting and who it affects

When you're arranging a meeting, think about who actually needs to be present. If you're announcing a change, invite the individuals who are affected by the notice. If you're trying to brainstorm a creative idea, invite those that will bring ideas to the table - to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution.

The problem with inviting everyone is that some people will feel that what's being discussed isn't relevant to them, or that they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they'll think their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.

3. Write the agenda before your meeting

Write a detailed agenda with time slots and questions under each point

Now that you know why you're having the meeting and who needs to be present, it's time to produce a meeting agenda that will keep the conversation on track. Set some time aside to write your agenda professionally in a word document or email, rather than scribbling a few pointers down on a sticky note five minutes before the meeting. Preparing your agenda ahead of time will ensure you prioritise the right items of significance and set time limits for each item. It's a good idea to email the agenda to people attending the meeting in advance. Once you're in the meeting, display your agenda on a screen or write it on the whiteboard in bullet form for others to see. This keeps people focused on the order.

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4. Ask attendees to prepare their own notes for the meeting

Attendees to prepare their questions and answers before the meeting

Having prepared a plan and then sharing the agenda with the attendees, ensures everyone is on the same page. Ask the attendees of the meeting to prepare their own notes and this way everyone is ensuring productivity. The attendees can acquaint themselves with discussion topics, formulate any information that will be required, or ask illustrative questions before the meeting.

5. Go through the standing agenda in the meeting in order

Avoid confusion by ordering your points in relevancy and priority.

Encourage participation throughout the meeting, by asking questions and opinions. Following the points on the agenda is vital, as this will avoid confusion. If your team is engaged and have already looked through the agenda, then they will come prepared with information, thoughts, and questions since they're familiar with your topics of discussion.

 Ensure everyone gets their say, and if you think it's easier, go around the circle to get everyone's input. Then allow ideas to be discussed freely based on everyone's input. Great ideas ascend when people can spontaneously bounce ideas off one another. And since there's structure via the agenda, your meeting will stay focused as you tick off each point.

 6. Decide on actionable points

To maximise productivity and basis for your meeting, agree on a timeline and roles

It's important to track the actionable items for each team member and then discuss their deadlines. This makes follow-up meetings a lot easier as you have a written note to relay back on. Outline your expectations, and go around the team to discuss their expectations. Having a good project management software to note these like Basecamp or Trello with due dates and documents attached, allows the team to stay accountable always. What you want to avoid though, is mico-management of projects. Trust your team to complete their own work, unless they ask for your input.

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Successful meetings produce a motivated team

Your attendees will leave armed with notes, deadlines and deliverables

Once you adjourn your meeting, the team will be armed with motivation. If you follow the steps above, the team will have deadlines, tasks to complete and everyone should have had their questions answered to go forward. Having made notes throughout the meeting, means everyone is aware of the discussion and can relay back to the notes if they need to.

Taking that extra time out at the beginning to prepare means you have a motivated workforce, and will prove worth it in the end. With an outlined purpose, agenda, and actionable points, everyone will come in knowing what to consider and walk out knowing what to do next.

 

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