How to Run a Great Meeting

You’ve probably read an article in the last year or so that detailed the dark side of meetings – lost time, lowered productivity, wasted effort – the list goes on. And although there’s been much chatter, meetings are still happening in offices and on phones around the globe.

But if meetings are such a waste of time and effort, why would any smart leader continue to hold them? They probably wouldn’t. The fact is – meetings can be a great use of time and effort when they’re well-run. To make sure your meetings are productive and effective, don’t forget to do these five things.

1. Provide Purpose & Agenda
For a meeting to be productive, you must have a purpose – why are you meeting? What is the desired outcome? With your purpose clearly defined, set an agenda that will enable you to produce that outcome. When your attendees understand the purpose of your meeting and how you’ll achieve the goal, it’s much easier to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.

2. Define Action Items & Project Owners
Every great meeting produces action items and each attendee should walk away with a clear idea of what they need to do next and when. If someone won’t be walking away with an action item, carefully consider if they need to be in the meeting or not. If they must, you’re probably expecting them to do something – even if it’s just to weigh in with ideas or consider what was discussed for their use. Whatever they are, define your expectations clearly for everyone involved.

3. Set an End Time & Keep It
If you don’t set an end time for your meeting, you run the risk of hosting a social hour, complaint tank, or otherwise off-track discussion session. Having an end time (and keeping it) will enable you to keep everyone on-topic. Bonus: it has also been suggested that time constraints have a positive impact on creativity.

4. Create the Right Environment
The best meetings create an environment where attendees are free to challenge each other and input creative, blue-sky ideas that won’t be immediately dismissed. Be sure all of your attendees understand that you want them to challenge and get creative so the best results can be produced. Also make it clear that meetings are to discuss and come up with solutions, not dwell on problems.

5. Make it Short or Take Breaks
If your meeting runs over a half hour, give attendees regular breaks. Every half hour is best, but if you can’t swing a break that often, provide at least one an hour – even if it’s just a few minutes. This will allow attendees to use the bathroom, stretch, grab a drink or snack, or answer that urgent email. Providing breaks will not only make attendees happier, but it will cut down on distractions during important discussions.

Bottom Line
Now that you know the five essentials of a great meeting, continuously fine tune your structure by testing out what works and what doesn’t. Before you know it, you’ll be running highly productive and effective meetings every time. Now get out there and banish the notion that meetings are a waste of time by making them great!