How to Organize a Productive Meeting
Every year, our neighborhood HOA has a meeting. Just ONE meeting – once a year. It’s always scheduled for the 2nd Tuesday in November, same time, and same location so everyone is aware well in advance. The problem is, attendance is always historically low. It’s so mind boggling to me. I LOVE meetings! Even when I worked in my corporate job, I loved meetings. I find meetings to be informative and a great way to get you out of your office cubicle in order to interact with people from different departments. How else can people share and exchange information, get feedback, plan, collaborate and make important decisions for their organizations?
I started thinking – why do meetings have such a bad reputation? It shouldn’t be considered a waste of time, if done correctly. The fact is we can all expect to spend a significant amount of our day in meetings. So why not learn to conduct meaningful and productive meetings?
Not sure how to organize a productive meeting? It’s simple:
Get right to the agenda. No need to spend time doing those annoying icebreaker or warm up activities. You’ll just make the meeting longer than it needs to be. Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting, along with a timeline that allots a certain number of minutes to each item, and email it to people in advance. Once you’re in the meeting, put that agenda up on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This keeps people focused.
Diversify your speakers. Make sure you have different people contributing information to the meeting. If you have just one speaker “lecturing” the audience, everyone’s head will soon nod.
Start on time, end on time. If you have responsibility for running regular meetings and you have a reputation for being someone who starts and ends promptly, you will be amazed how many of your colleagues will make every effort to attend your meetings. People appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable.
Use visual materials. People need something to focus on besides the person speaking. Make sure you have something for people to look at that reinforces the speaker’s message. Such as an overhead, PowerPoint presentation, pictures, handouts, etc.
Encourage questions. After sending out the agenda, encourage people to write down their questions in advance of the meeting. Allow time for questions directed to each speaker as you go. If you can’t answer the question immediately and correctly, tell the people you’ll get back with them when you have the correct answer.
Make sure the space is big enough. Having a conference area that is too small is a disaster. No one should have to stand or sit behind the presenters. Make sure there are seats for all attendees, and if taking notes is required, a surface to write on, too. Make sure visuals are visible and that people can hear. You may need to use a microphone if you have a very large audience.
Bring snacks. Never underestimate the power of food at a meeting. Food relaxes the atmosphere, helps make people feel comfortable, sustains positive energy levels and builds the camaraderie of the team.
Follow up. It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, send a follow up email highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page.
Meetings truly can be valuable and productive. You just have to take the steps to make them that way.