How to Run a Perfect Meeting

Meetings are a major part of business. U.S. businesses hold an average of 55 million meetings a day; the average worker participates in 8 meetings a week; for managers, this rises to 12 meetings a week.; for middle managers, this can account for as much as 35 percent of their work schedule, and for upper managers, as much as 50 percent of work time may be spent in meetings. With meetings occupying such a significant chunk of the workday, it’s worthwhile to make sure this time is being used as productively as possible. Here are some tips for running the perfect meeting in order to make the most of your meeting time.

Setting an Agenda

A successful meeting starts with a clear objective. Unless you know the purpose of your meeting, you can’t evaluate the effectiveness of your discussion. The person or team planning your meeting should decide ahead of time what outcomes the meeting is intended to achieve.

There are several types of objectives a meeting can have. Some meetings are intended to inform participants about a new policy or procedure or some other important information. Some meetings are designed to review a policy and solicit input. Other meetings are convened to solve a problem. There are also meetings called in order to make a decision.

After you decide what your meeting aims to accomplish and how you intended to accomplish this, write down your agenda. Distribute copies of the agenda to participants ahead of the meeting. This will give planners and participants an opportunity to come to the meeting prepared with good questions and answers.

Choosing a Meeting Structure

The purpose of your meeting helps determine which structure will be most conducive to attaining your meeting’s objective. If the purpose of your meeting is to inform, a presentation followed by a question-and-answer session may be an appropriate format. If the purpose is to review a policy, a round table discussion soliciting input from each participant is a suitable structure. If the purpose is to solve a problem, a brainstorming session may work well. If the purpose is to make a decision, the structure of the meeting can take the form of a presentation of opposing options followed by a vote.

Deciding Who Needs to Attend

The purpose of your meeting also helps determine who should be invited. If the purpose is to inform, everyone who needs to know the information should attend. If the purpose is to review a policy or solve a problem, those whose input is needed should be invited. If the purpose is to make a decision, those who hold decision-making authority should participate. To avoid wasting company time, limit invitations to those who truly need to attend.

Picking a Location

Once you know how many people need to attend, you can choose a location. The room should be large enough for the number of participants who will attend. It should also have seating and audio-visual arrangements suitable to the structure of your meeting. For instance, an informative meeting can take place in a classroom-style setup, while a round table review of policy might use a rectangular or u-shaped setup.

If you plan to include off-site employees in your meeting, your meeting room should be equipped to support remote participation. If remote participants only need to hear what is said and be able to talk to participants, a voice-only VoIP connection may be sufficient. If you want remote participants to be able to see or share visuals, you may need a laptop or a large screen for VoIP video conferencing.

Scheduling and Sending Invitations

A routine but crucial part of meeting planning is scheduling the meeting and sending out invitations. Schedule the meeting at a time that will encourage maximum attendance from those who need to participate. If your team uses a group calendar, incorporate this into your planning. To encourage attendance, invitations should be followed up with reminders as the meeting time approaches.

Taking Notes

Taking notes helps ensure that meeting time is put to practical use both during and after the meeting. In meetings intended to present information, it may be sufficient to pass out notes ahead of time. In other types of meetings, someone should normally be tasked with taking official minutes. Recording equipment can be used to facilitate note-taking when appropriate.

Following up

To make sure meeting time gets translated into action, follow-up is vital. Conclude the meeting with a call to action describing what next steps should be taken by participants. Follow up by sending out reminders when applicable.

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