At some point in your professional career, you've likely attended a meeting that felt like a waste of time. But when done right, they can be a great way to bring people together to share ideas, discuss goals, or improve business. That's why we've put together a list of must-know rules on how to run an efficient business meeting, both for meeting facilitators and participants. These tips aren't universally applicable to all meetings, more so a list you can pick and choose from relevant to your environment.
If you don't have a purpose, don't schedule a meeting:
Before you schedule anything, ask yourself, "does this need to be a meeting?" Every meeting should have a specific purpose. If something can be resolved over a quick email or informal chat, do that instead.
Send an official invitation:
Make sure you reserve time on everyone's calendar. Send the invite through your company's preferred calendar system and include the following; the block of time reserved for the meeting, the location or meeting room, the agenda (what are you going to cover during the conference), an outline of what meeting attendees should bring (notepad, laptops, etc.)
If you're giving a presentation, rehearse it. Being prepared includes making sure your slides are in order, providing copies of essential documents for attendees, checking the equipment to avoid technical errors, ensuring your laptop or whatever device you'll be using is charged and good to go. Don't wing a presentation or hold a meeting without an agenda.
Know the location/platform:
Whether you're in the office or logging in for a virtual meeting, it's essential to know the location or platform in which the meeting is taking place. If you're in the office, make sure you know what meeting room you're going to. If you're attending a meeting virtually, make sure you already have the platform (Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, etc.) downloaded and the login details ready to go. If you're attending an online meeting, ensure that profile picture and username are both appropriate. Test volume levels right away and always mute yourself when not speaking. If you will be sharing your screen, close all irrelevant programs to avoid confusion.
Be on time:
Don't be the person that walks into a meeting when it's already started. Arriving late draws unnecessary attention and looks unprofessional. Things pop up, and sometimes it's unavoidable being late, maybe the call with a substantial client ran over, and you couldn't get off the phone in time. If you know you have a meeting plan ahead of time so that your schedules allow enough time for you to prepare and get to the meeting on time. Leaders should also be mindful that they set the example of meeting etiquette - if you're always running late, then your staff will likely think it's fine to show up 5 mins late as well. Remember, early is better than late.
Make personal introductions if you can. If the meeting size is intimate enough, make sure you've introduced yourself to those you don't know.
If you're seated around a table, make sure your chair is adjusted to an appropriate height. Sit up and stay engaged. A meeting isn't your time to relax and kick your feet up. If you're attending a stand-up meeting, pay attention to the crowd. Leave the front row or more visual areas for those that may have difficulties seeing or hearing.
Know your audience:
Not everyone thrives in meeting environments. Recognize that some personalities may be comfortable speaking up. If that's you - turn the volume up! Make your voice loud enough to be heard by everyone in the meeting without dominating the conversation, give room for other attendees to speak. Others may be more reserved and do better with different types of participation like survey taking or following up via email afterward. Always ensure that marginalized voices are heard and amplified. Check out our blog on amplifying marginalized voices here.
Stay engaged and stay on topic:
The last thing you want is to get caught not paying attention. By actively participating, you can stay engaged and focused. If you can't join verbally, listen actively, and take notes. Be sure to keep on topic as well. An attendee or leader should speak up if a conversation has gone rogue. If you are facilitating the meeting, guide it back to its primary purpose.
Put the phone away:
It's rarely appropriate to be on your phone during a meeting (sure there are a few exceptions), so before the meeting starts, put it on silent, flight mode, or anything non-disturbing.
Respect the time constraints:
Stick to the amount of time you reserved and end the meeting on time. Don't merely run over time; instead, acknowledge that you tried to fit too much into one session and schedule a follow-up meeting. If you're leading a meeting, be sure to work in time for questions and account for that when you're planning. If you run out of time, make sure to follow-up on questions in a different forum.
Clean up after yourself:
Push your chair back in, take your coffee cup or glass of water back to your desk, discard any trash, and leave the room in good condition for whoever is using it next.
Recap the meeting:
If you've led the meeting, send attendees a quick note of thanks for attending. Include the meeting notes or action items, delegate who will be responsible for such things, and set deadlines on when action items are due. If you've volunteered or been assigned a task, deliver on action items before the deadlines.
Whether you’ve been in the workforce for a few months, or several years, don’t take these things for granted. They may apply to you, or someone on your team. Coaching up team members on these concepts will make everyone across the organization more effective. You’ll build strong habits across your organization. Meetings will be more effective. Your team will be more efficient. And that should make everyone a lot happier.