Everyone has walked out of a meeting thinking, “Was that productive?” This question usually comes to mind when the discussion didn’t propel anyone into further action. With limited hours in the day we need to make the most of what time we have. Hopefully this article can shed insight on how to spend meeting time more efficiently. We’ve gathered eleven easy ways to get more out of your meetings, check them out below or take a peek at this infographic.
1. Meet with the right people.
Consider the stage of development the project is in when you invite people to the meeting. This will include a mix of key stakeholders and managers as well as end users. Interviews with people who use the system day to day are essential while its important to keep the big picture in mind. Bring a paddle, not just the boat.
2. Always have an agenda.
Working off of an agenda gives the meeting a sense of direction. Have a plan, but be accommodating to other’s needs. Introduce the agenda in such a way that anyone can add to it. Re-prioritize if needs have changed since the agenda has been developed. Be dynamic.
3. Start on time, end on time.
We’ve heard every excuse in the book. “My last meeting ran long.” “I needed another cup of coffee.” “Sorry, I really needed to catch that Pikachu.” As much as we love caffeine and Pokémon, maintain a level of professionalism by respecting the time of others. Also, before you call people for a meeting, ask this question: would this be better communicated in an email?
4. Ask open ended questions.
Don’t make leading questions or statements. By posing probing questions, you can skew the natural direction of the conversation without making absolutes and stifling the input and creativity of others.
5. Take notes.
Most people like to keep their own personal notes but assigning a scribe to consolidate all information is never a bad idea. This helps avoid open interpretations of ambiguous notes. Recording conversations for later reference gives one an opportunity to recount exact details in later stages as well.
6. Repeat what you hear.
Double check that the other person communicated clearly and that you interpreted correctly. Perform a communication audit of yourself and the other person. This is a time saver overall.
7. Be an active listener.
Be fully present, both physically and mentally. A full mental presence is key when it comes time to ask questions or tell the client to expand upon a concept. Visualization here is key. The right questions will reveal the real requirements, making the most out of the meeting.
8. Communicate transparently.
Centralized information sharing leads to successful collaboration. During the meeting it is critical to have everyone on the same page. Limit confusion by basing the meeting off of a central working document available to everyone. SharePoint is great for this collaboration but it’s important that you find out what works for you and your team. If you can edit this document in real time, that’s even better: your scribe can type notes and the rest of the team can see the updates throughout the meeting.
9. Take a break.
Studies show that most adults can only focus on a particular task for 45 to 60 minutes before getting distracted so if you can’t keep the meeting short, allow five to ten minutes for members to grab a coffee and engage in side conversation. The break gives people a chance to share ideas with one person before sharing with the whole group; informally screening the idea can increase ones’ confidence and generate more ideas .
10. End with next steps.
A meeting has little point if there is no subsequent action following the conclusion. Where do we go from here? What goals need to be accomplished before meeting again? Give everyone direction as to how to proceed.
11. Follow up with summaries.
Assert accountability. Follow up with an email summarizing the meeting and assigning these next steps to people. Recording the meeting’s conclusion can be motivating and beneficial for historical purposes.
You may find that implementing all of these tips at once to be a challenge and that’s okay. Some of you may find that not all of these are necessary and that’s okay, too. What’s most important is that you find what makes these few precious minutes more fruitful during the rest of your work day. Want to share this before your next meeting? We’ve put it all in this infographic just for you.