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How to Run a Better Meeting

Meetings are an inescapable and almost daily occurrence for most employees. Most of us cannot imagine work without them. However, many people complain that meetings can be time-wasters. In fact, 71 percent of senior managers surveyed across a variety of industries said they were unproductive and inefficient. However, meetings should be a tool used to strategize in order to advance company goals. So why are so many meetings missing the mark? The simple answer may be that we have not been taught how to run an effective meeting. In choosing to call a meeting, however small or large, it is important that a few things be kept in mind.

  • Know the meeting objective: Have a clear idea about what this meeting is actually meant to accomplish. For example, is it a brainstorming session or a strategy and planning meeting? Distributing an agenda beforehand helps to establish the goals of the meeting. It also allows people to prepare if they need to provide updates.

  • Limit the duration: We seem to want to schedule meetings for an hour. However, there is a time management adage that says work expands to the time you allot for it. Studies have shown that most people have an attention span of 15-18 minutes. Now, not everything can be accomplished in that time frame, but it’s worth thinking about the next time you are looking to schedule time for a meeting. Realistically evaluate how much time you need. If you find that you are needing an hour or more, perhaps it would be better to do shorter meetings with fewer people to accomplish some goals before calling the larger group together.

  • Limit the attendees: A meeting shouldn’t be a spectator sport. Before you send a meeting invite, think about who really needs to attend. Also have an idea of which attendees need to be allotted time to speak as well as allowing time for feedback from others in attendance.

  • Wrap it up: A meeting should bring issues to closure through definitive decision-making. However, this does not mean you have to have all of the answers. The decision can be as small as choosing to reconvene about the issue once more information has been gathered or as big as changing parts of team strategy. Assign follow-up tasks with deadlines as that ensures nothing has been forgotten and that team members aren’t doing the same work. An effective meeting will outline specific deliverables and who will be accountable for achieving them.

Being able to run an effective meeting is crucial for those in supervisory positions. However, many are not born with innate knowledge on how to successfully put together a meeting and keep it on track. Companies can include opportunities to learn these skills as part of a leadership development program that will set prospective employees up for taking on larger group supervising responsibilities.

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