Have you ever left a meeting and thought “what was the point of that”?
The last thing you want as a meeting host is for your guests to feel as though you’ve wasted their time.
Don’t host a meeting just for the sake of it.
If you’re asking people to give you their time, it’s important to make sure you achieve something by the end of it.
We’ve compiled 8 tips to help you make sure your meeting goes smoothly, and you achieve what you set out to do.
#8 Pick an Appropriate Location
Location can mean the difference between a focused, successful meeting, and a distracted, unproductive one. Consider the number of people you’re hosting, and choose somewhere quiet, with good light, and the right props.
Make sure that it has the equipment you need - for example, if you need to show a powerpoint, or all be looking at the same thing, ensure beforehand that you’re going to be able to do this. Show up early to iron out any kinks in the operation too - there are few things worse in a meeting than having spent hours putting together a presentation, only to have technology fail on you.
Make sure that the space is the appropriate size for the number of people you’re hosting. It can be awkward for ten people to be in a room meant for 50 people. If this happens, see if your host has a curtain that can be pulled across or a room separator to help make the space feel right. Similarly, nobody wants to be squashed shoulder-to-shoulder into a room that’s too small for the group.
#7 Have A Plan
Before the meeting, make sure you have a clear objective, and a plan for how you’re going to get there. During a meeting, it’s normal for the tack to change and develop, so you may stray from the original plan - but as long as you keep the objective in mind, and it’s reached by the end, that’s okay.
Make an agenda, and share this with attendees so that they can be prepared too. This should include the purpose of the meeting, the time and location, a list of topics to cover, and how long you expect to spend discussing each topic.
Having a plan will help you keep the conversation focused on the primary issue, making you more likely to reach a satisfactory outcome by the end of it.
At the beginning of the meeting, define your objective again, so that everybody in the room is on board with what you’re trying to achieve.
#6 Invite The Right People
On average, people spend a whopping 31 hours in unproductive meetings every month. That’s almost a quarter of their work time!
Most people will have had the experience of sitting in a meeting and wondering why they needed to be there. This not only makes that person feel superfluous to requirements; it’s also a waste of resources. When the right people are in the room, the likelihood is they will all have something to contribute.
If there are people who need to know about the meeting, but won’t necessarily have anything to contribute, have someone there take minutes and share them later. This could save a LOT of time over the course of a year.
#5 Break The Ice
Nobody likes icebreakers - they feel corny and forced. But it’s a well-known fact that if somebody has spoken once in a meeting scenario, they’re more likely to speak again. An icebreaker doesn’t just help to introduce attendees to one another, or allow you to find out something about them - they also break internal barriers for individuals, making them more likely to contribute.
An icebreaker doesn’t have to be a cringe-worthy self-introduction. As the host, you can control the flow in a number of ways.
Ask each attendee a question you think they’ll be able to answer easily
Break them into smaller groups for their initial introduction, so that they feel connected to at least a few people in the room.
Use something visual in your presentation to encourage everyone’s participation.
#4 Attend to Their Needs
Break-time is important, so make sure you factor in a break in longer meetings, where attendees can leave the room, get some air, or maybe a bite to eat. But this is just as important during the meeting.
Offer everyone a hot drink when they first arrive, and make sure you have a supply nearby for top-ups. Position water glasses and carafes within easy reach of everyone, as well as a few healthy snacks with allergen-free options like fruit and nuts. Hunger and thirst aren’t conducive to a productive meeting, and only serves as another distraction!
Make a point of telling attendees where the restrooms are at the beginning of the meeting as well.
#3 Eliminate Distractions
This comes back to location, in part - while it might be tempting to host a smaller meeting in a public space like a bar or cafe, the fact is that these locations have a lot of distractions - and most of them are outside of your control.
The noise level - both of music and other customers; people getting up or calling a waiter over; or the waiter (who is just doing their job) interrupting the flow to “see if you’d like anything else”. Part of eliminating distractions is to host the meeting in a location where you can control most of the atmosphere.
Texts, emails, and phone calls are also a massive distraction - and everyone is going to have instant access to these things on their smartphones. Politely ask attendees to turn their phones to airplane mode, so that they will be able to fully participate in the meeting.
It’s easy for people to get waylaid with small talk and gossip as well. When the topic turns, quickly change the subject back to the issue at hand. If you know the attendees well, identify any known trigger topics prior to the meeting, and plan a way to bring them back on topic.
#2 End with an Action Plan
Now that you’ve found a way to resolve the issue at hand, you need to ensure then and there that it gets done. Make sure you have ample time at the end of the meeting to go over what’s been discussed, and confirm what happens next.
Try adding WWDWBW to the closing minutes of your meeting: Who Will Do What By When, and make sure everyone agrees on their responsibilities, and to do the tasks they’ve been set, within a timeframe.
Keep track of that timeframe, so that when it approaches, you can give them a gentle reminder.
#1 Mix it up with a teleconference
Planning for business disruption is smart. Wellington is known for earthquakes; pandemics happen; stuff happens in people's lives. Your business needs to continue if at all possible.
Video conferencing has come a long way from its freezy, hard-to-hear initial offerings. Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams are just some of the providers making remote meetings work much better.
It's important to get everyone on the same platform - so make a Loom screenshare about how to download and install the appropriate software and sign in.
Everyone needs a way to hear well and sound good - headsets are best, and good ones are relatively cheap. Wireless earbuds will work for most - and are best if people are dialing in from a mobile device.
Screens can be shared, questions fielded and when people do speak they take up the whole screen, so it can help introverts by giving them a more focussed spotlight.
Get people used to it early, so it's a seamless transition in case of emergencies. Maybe toss in a teleconference once a month to keep people on their toes - even if they're dialing in from neighboring desks it'll be fun and shake things up.