Your calendar is filled to the brim with meeting after meeting. You’re enduring small talk about weekend plans and the weather. You’re discussing important topics and making business-critical decisions. You’re hopefully getting the information you need to solve the problem at hand. Rinse and repeat for a full work week before you start it all up again next Monday.
Such is life in the business world. But that doesn’t mean that every meeting is the best use of your time. If you host or attend calls that can’t quite hit the mark or fail to be productive, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few ways to maximize your meetings and give back some time in your day.
Many corporate workers get meeting invites all day, every day. Some are vague and leave you guessing what the meeting is actually about. Others are overly convoluted with half a dozen attachments and an agenda that can’t possibly fit in the time allowed. The result is a lot of confusion and uncertainty. However, nailing your meeting preparation approach can help.
The fact of the matter is that a lot of the work that goes into a meeting happens before everyone meets. You’re talking to coworkers to get the background information necessary for the conversations you’ll have. You’re opening a project to track tasks and approvals and manage expectations. You’re determining who needs to be involved and who can sit this one out.
But your meeting prep should also include creating resources that ensure your meetings run smoothly. Having your overview, action items, expected personnel, and any other pertinent information in one document that’s attached to the invite is immensely helpful. Instead of throwing that all in the agenda space, you’ll allow attendees to reference the information in a way that’s more accessible and that they’ll actually look at.
If your attendees need to understand some technical information before the meeting starts, a simple hand out might not cut it. Instead of sending them a chart that they then have to interpret themselves, you might send them a video explanation to watch before the meeting. Using a screen recorder to create videos highlighting important data or demoing an example can save everyone time. When your attendees are all informed on the subject matter prior to the meeting, your meeting can be less about explaining and more about efficient, effective conversations.
When you have a day full of meetings, they all tend to run together. It’s easy to get the takeaways mixed up because of the volume of conversations you have. That’s why creating (and sticking to) a meeting agenda is so important.
Either during the meeting scheduling process or a day or two before the meeting, think through your must-haves. These are the pieces of information or data points that are required to get the work you need completed. Once those are outlined, you’re ready to build your agenda.
It can be as detailed as is needed for the call. If you’re meeting to chat about one thing, it can be as short as plainly typing out that question or topic. For more involved calls, a bulleted list can be helpful to share exactly what needs to be covered. When there’s a substantial amount of ground to cover, add time limits to topics to ensure you get to all of them.
The best part? Your agenda can be a living, breathing source of truth. If you get into the meeting and realize you need to pivot, make changes or schedule follow-up calls. The point is to help guide the conversation to stay on track and get you what you need. Anything you do ahead of the meeting to accomplish that is often time well spent.
Many meetings have the goal of assigning work to be completed. You’re detailing the task, the desired outcome, and expectations for the request. However, if you’re solely focused on the logistical pieces, you may be causing your meeting to drag on.
That’s because many people find it hard to speak up when they’re confused. They’ll be thinking about a deliverable you just went over while you’re speaking about something else. So, while you’ve moved on, attendees of the meeting haven’t. The result is confusion and the need to repeat yourself or meet again later to provide clarity.
Instead, focus on leaving pauses for questions throughout the gathering. If you identify additional information you need to provide for the work to be assigned, great! You can cut the meeting short and go back to your contacts for that information before meeting again.
While you want to be mindful of time spent in your meetings, it’s also important to be effective. You’re asking someone to work on something, so it’s your job to provide what the necessary components to complete it. Empowering them to ask follow-up or clarification questions throughout your meeting is a great way to do just that.
Will every meeting you have be highly productive and efficient? No, unfortunately, that’s unlikely. However, implementing these tips can give you a better chance of getting what you need done in a timely fashion. That way, you can prepare for your next call or take a breather before diving back into the thick of it.