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How to Improve Your Planned Meetings

Staff meetings get a lot of bad press, but a planned meeting can be a crucial part of running your business. Well-planned meetings bring people together to share ideas, collaborate, catch up on projects or introduce new learning. The best meetings are well organized, engaging and achieve their intended purpose. Learn tips for planning a business meeting successfully.

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Plan a great meeting

Meetings can give employees a significant productivity boost if they’re properly planned and executed. Here are some steps to plan a meeting effectively:

  • Define an outcome.What is the meeting meant to accomplish? Do you want to share information, collaborate, persuade or educate others? Keep this in mind as you plan. If a topic or activity doesn’t support your outcome, consider dropping it from the agenda and saving it for another meeting or different form of communication.
  • Determine what you’ll cover.Meetings are more engaging and effective when they cover a maximum of two topics or activities. Picking the topics helps you develop the meeting structure based on what you’re covering.
  • Outline an agenda. Your meeting agenda should include all action items for the meeting. Ensure you allow time for questions and feedback. This helps you stay on track to improve meeting productivity.
  • Choose the location. Conference rooms are a popular choice, but they’re not ideal for every meeting. Consider how much space you need and the type of space that would best facilitate the meeting. If you’re holding a meeting to brainstorm solutions for a shortage of warehouse space, meeting in the warehouse for at least part of the meeting helps everyone see the problem and evaluate possible solutions.
  • Identify necessary preparations. Based on your agenda, make a list of preparations, including the things you need to bring to the meeting. This might include data, printed materials or product samples.
  • Ensure materials are finished and ready in advance.If there are multiple contributors, give yourselves enough time for revisions.
  • Include the agenda in your meeting invite.You may only have a brief outline at first. If your meeting software allows, you can continue to build as the meeting date nears. This gives participants a chance to prepare, bring questions or suggest additions to the meeting.
  • Send reminders the day before the meeting. It’s always a good idea to remind teammates, particularly if you have invited many people.
  • Keep it brief.Cover top points, particularly if you’re giving a presentation. If you have a presentation deck, save more detailed slides for the appendix.

How to create a planned meeting agenda

The purpose of meeting agendas is to guide the meeting, support productive discussions and help manage your time. If most of your planned meetings follow the same basic structure, creating an agenda template makes the process easier by allowing you to simply fill in specifics for each meeting. Follow these steps to create the agenda:

  1. Note the meeting purpose.
  2. Draft a rough outline of topics to cover and items you want to accomplish.
  3. Pull details on specific matters. Send out queries to relevant team members on topics you need to cover. Get a rough idea from each participant on how much time will be needed for each topic. For example, if you’re getting project updates from multiple team members, determine how long each will talk.
  4. Allot time for each section of the meeting. Allow time for feedback and questions.
  5. Line up your conference room and necessary audio and video equipment.
  6. Assign note-taking for meeting minutes to an appropriate member of your team.
  7. Distribute the agenda to participants.

Tips for more effective meetings

Effective meeting planning helps you get more done in a shorter time. Here are some tips to help you manage effective meetings:

  • Invite the right people.Think about what you hope to achieve. Who will ultimately be responsible, who has the information, who can offer great ideas and who can make things happen? Meetings are always more effective when they’re limited to key players. Employees who aren’t essential to the topic will generally appreciate that you respect their time and leave them off the meeting invite.
  • Share your expectations.Be straightforward about your expectations. Are you expecting new ideas, a status update from different departments or a commitment to the next steps? If you’re educating employees and your expectation is that the learning helps them in some way, what takeaway can you give them to ensure that happens?
  • Stay on topic.Many meetings get sidetracked. As the meeting organizer, it’s your job to keep the discussion pertinent. If the distracting topic is equally important, note it as something you need to discuss, but hold off for now. Circle back to add it to a future meeting agenda, or address it another way, such as a one-on-one conversation or email communications.
  • Create a positive environment. Effective meetings require contributions from participants when appropriate. Setting a positive, safe meeting environment where participants feel comfortable sharing helps with this. Set expectations for when and how to share, ensuring all participants are respectful to one another.
  • Have fun. You need to get serious work done at your meetings, but you can also make the experience enjoyable. You might kick off the meeting with a motivating song or offer the team’s favorite coffee and donuts to get them excited about it.
  • Get feedback. You can evaluate how well your planned meeting goes from your perspective, but it’s not always easy to determine how other people felt about it from observations. Ask participants how they feel past meetings went. Use surveys to get feedback and ask for suggestions to improve future meetings.

Related:How to Manage Employees

Business meeting FAQs

Here are frequently asked questions about business meetings:

Why hold a business meeting?

Understanding the purpose of meetings helps you plan them effectively. Generally, there are three reasons for calling a business meeting:

  • Providing information.Meetings can focus on knowledge sharing, status updates, updating employees on company initiatives or introducing new processes.
  • Making decisions. Sometimes, a decision requires the expertise, feedback or consensus of many team members.
  • Feedback purposes.In some cases, management may need feedback from employees, customers or stakeholders.

How do I make meetings better for remote employees?

Remote meetings can be just as effective as live meetings, and they’re very time and cost-efficient. Here are some tips for effective remote meetings that engage and deliver:

  • Choose a good time. If you’re working with people in multiple time zones, choose a time that’s appropriate for everyone. If your internal meeting software can’t help you, there are many websites online that can.
  • Choose a good day. If you’re working with international teams, be aware of countries’ holidays and that weekends may start earlier than yours.
  • Keep it brief.Long calls, long presentations or a presenter who blathers endlessly will send your audience back to checking emails or multitasking. Keep it short and simple. Send follow-up materials if your topic is data-heavy.
  • Make it visual.If you’re giving a presentation, represent talking points with visuals. This not only helps keep participants engaged but works well with audiences who may speak your language as a second one.
  • Ask for feedback frequently. You may need to put participants on mute if you have a lot of people joining. Make sure you ask for feedback often to keep participants engaged and to ensure tools are working.
  • Use collaboration tools.There’s a wide range of tools to keep your audience engaged. Consider using video conferencing, chat and polling software to keep engagement high for remote employees.

What is a good way to end a meeting?

Always stick to the schedule and end the meeting on time. This shows respect to all participants and allows them to handle other responsibilities. Ending a meeting with a clear call to action for participants can make it more effective. After a meeting introducing a new tool you’re implementing, the call to action might be to download the software and play around with it. If the meeting was designed to make decisions about the team project, each team member should know how to proceed based on the decisions you made. Follow up by sending the meeting minutes to all participants shortly after the meeting.

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