Whether you’re holding a meeting physically, or digitally, making sure everything is done in time can be challenging. Here, we discuss a number of ways to make the meeting more efficient, and ensure you reach your goals within the set time frame.
We can probably all relate to the challenges that can arise in a meeting, and that makes it more difficult to get everything done in time. Where presentations may take longer than expected, background information may need to be discussed, the plan may be developed on the fly and participants may struggle to follow the different discussion points. Challenges that, in turn, can make participants feel that their time isn’t well spent, and that the goals for the meeting aren’t reached despite the fact that the timeframe has been exceeded.
Luckily, there are ways to lessen/prevent these challenges, as well as the consequences they bring. We’ve gathered a few of them, here, and that can form a solid basis for your next meeting – whether it’s held physically or digitally.
1: Have a clear agenda
To have an agenda that is given to participants -before the meeting – gives them time to view and understand why they’re there. Which saves time, as the meeting may not have to begin with a discussion about the plan and content of the meeting, and instead giving the participants a chance to understand the purpose ahead of time.
Furthermore, understanding the purpose; why they’re investing time in the meeting, can make a large difference for both engagement and focus.
The latter was also discussed by NY Times, in one of their guides on the topic. Where they pointed to an interview with Annette Catino, CEO at Qualcare Inc, who says that she doesn’t participate in meetings without an agenda. This, as ”if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.”
Now, this may be a hard line to draw, but shows how a meeting without an agenda can be so much more difficult to hold efficiently, and further underlining how the agenda can be sort of roadmap to the meeting. Making it easier to understand the reasons and goals.
2: Distribute roles
While all participants don’t necessarily need clearly defined roles, odds are that some will – for example the moderator/meeting leader and the note taker. If so, it’s a good idea to assign these (and make sure the individuals are prepared) ahead of time, which gives the participants a clear idea of who will guide the meeting forward, whom they can ask questions etc.
If specific participants are to present, this also means that they should be made aware before the meeting, and be encouraged to prepare a presentation and related background material. ´
3: Share background information prior to the meeting
To spend time discussing and clarifying background material can take time away from the actual goal of the meeting. Which means that, if possible, information and background material should be distributed prior to the meeting, and participants should be encouraged to familiarize themselves with said material. Additionally, presenting participants may also distribute their information accordingly, which can make their presentations run smoothe
4: Start and end in time
With an agenda it’s so much easier for everyone to see when you’re doing what, but holding an efficient meeting also means that said agenda has to be followed, that the allocated timeframe for each discussion point isn’t exceeded etc. Something that, for example, the meeting leader can work toward by noting when there are a few minutes left before it’s time to move on. On top of that, participants can be encouraged to keep an eye on the agenda, to have an idea of what is left to discuss and how much time there is to do so.
So far, we’ve mostly talked about ending the meeting (and its separate parts) on time, but it’s equally important to actually start when you’re supposed to. Which means that meeting leader/moderator should be in the room – whether it is a physical room or a virtual one – ahead of the starting time, so that they can welcome everyone and then start the meeting when it’s supposed to start.
5: Engage participants, invite to interaction
This is especially important for longer meetings, but should be taken into consideration for most. After all, it is difficult to stay focused and engaged for a long time, and even more so if the meeting contains more one-sided information than two-sided discussions. John Medina, for example (the Molecular Biologist and author of the book, Brain Rules) has explained that our general attention span is around 10 minutes, which implies that it can be a good idea to check-in with participants with such an interval. Something that can be as easy as asking a quick question, or going around the table and ask the participants what they think of the issue that is being discussed.
Regardless of the format of your next meeting; whether it’s digital, physical, or a hybrid of the two, there are ways of making said meeting as efficient as possible. While simultaneously ensuring that you have time to finalize all that you set out to do, and that participants feel that their time in the meeting was well spent. That the meeting was worth it, and that they’re now better equipped to handle the tasks at hand.