11 Tips to host effective meetings

Do you feel like you spend too much time in meetings?Ā  According to research, you are not alone. Worse still, research suggests that on average 20 minutes is wasted, prior to a meeting even starting. As a small business owner it is important to make best use of time, so here are 11 ways to keep meetings short, sweet and effective.

  1. Dispense with pleasantries – it sounds draconian but to move a meeting along the host needs to cut to the chase. By all means welcome and thank people for their time, but then move on to the first item on the agenda.
  2. Always have an agenda. It’s like the ingredients for a recipe. An agenda prevents folk going off topic and helps the host keep attendees on topic. Agendas don’t have to be formally circulated documents. Create dynamic agendas in software like Asana, Trello or Google Docs
  3. Stick to the agenda and at the end of each item decide if there is an action. If there is, who’s responsible and by what date? If you use Asana or Trello for your agenda, assign the task right there and then.
  4. Make notes and record actions while the meeting is taking place. This job doesn’t have to be given to one person. If you use Asana, Trello or Google Docs attendees can update the agenda item that they’re responsible for. Right while the meeting is taking place.
  5. Off Agenda Items – if a subject crops up that’s not on the agenda, the host can ask who needs to be present for that item. If everyone who needs to discuss the item is present, fantastic! The host asks if those people can stay and discuss that item once the scheduled meeting ends. No one wants to hang around listening to something that isn’t part of their remit.
  6. Out of respect for everyone, the host must stick to the scheduled start/end time. If attendees are late, there’s no backtracking.
  7. 15 minutes before the end of the meeting the host should take stock of progress. If there are agenda items which can’t covered within the allotted time, schedule another meeting. Why? If every meeting runs on time, every time, folk speed up and there’s less dithering and discussing. No one wants yet another meeting!
  8. When a long meeting is scheduled, it’s helpful if the host starts by asking everyone to make a note of anything that’s on their mind. When folk have a clear, uninterrupted mind, they pay attention to the task in hand. Speedier progress is made. Attendees also leave with a list of stuff they might otherwise have forgotten.
  9. Stack meetings. As I mentioned in the intro, research suggests that folk lose 20 minutes before a meeting. Stacking meetings one after another prevents this and you can read more about that here.
  10. Only invite people who need to attend the meeting! Nothing more to say šŸ™‚
  11. Project Management systems can reduce the number of meetings required. On a weekly basis the project owner updates the status of a project. Everyone involved in the project receives a status update and so no meeting is necessary.