About 47% of an employee’s time is spent preparing for and participating in meetings (4). Unfortunately, it has been observed that only half of this time is used productively (6). Already directly, all this wasted time represents a very large cost for companies.
Moreover, this generates enormous opportunity costs. That time could have been converted into results in another of the areas in which an employee is involved. This would have generated much more job satisfaction. It has happened to all of us at one time or another to arrive on time for a meeting that started late and no clear decision was reached. So here is a complete guide with the best strategies to follow to ensure an effective meeting.
- Nowadays, there are many meetings that do not reach any decision and demotivate employees. An important part of the working day is wasted in this kind of meetings.
- An effective meeting requires good organization and planning and a lot of collaboration. Moreover, an efficient meeting is a necessary meeting with a clear purpose.
- There are easy, but effective, actions that get results in a meeting, even if you are not the person organizing it. But they need attention before, during and after the meeting.
What you need to know about effective meetings
To make sure your meeting is productive from start to finish, we’ve separated the strategies that maximize its effectiveness into 3 sections. This way, you find strategies for before, during and after the meeting. This way, you will be sure of yourself at every moment of the meeting and you will be able to benefit from all its positive results afterwards.
What are the strategies you should consider before a meeting?
Effective meetings generate new ideas, facilitate decision-making, create group synergies and promote socialization. They are also a platform for sharing points of view (2). In addition, knowing how to lead a meeting properly can result in greater decisiveness, innovation, agility and resilience for your company and for you (6).
Decide if you really need to call a meeting
Before going through all the steps for a good organization, you need to ask yourself if a meeting is really the best way to achieve your objectives. Sometimes an email or dropping by your colleague’s desk is enough. Value and evaluate your time and that of others (1).
So that you can easily answer this question, we have prepared a table with the answer, according to your context and situation. We provide you with the criteria you have to take into account and which communication channel is preferable according to each of them.
|Message||General or global information||3 or more questions, sensitive or complex issues|
|Answer||Quick, short, definitive||Involves processing information and considering several points of view|
|People involved||A group of people||A team|
|Intention||To communicate data||Convey emotion, motivation|
However, there are particular cases where the criteria may seem contradictory. For example, if you need the answers to 3 questions, but you know that it is clear and concise in each case, an email is probably better than a meeting. For these reasons, we have also included a table with practical examples of when a meeting is often indispensable.
|General information (company-wide communiqués, reports, usual instructions)||Decisions involving many stakeholders|
|Reminders and deadlines||Organization and planning of a project|
|Small changes, errors, clarifications and updates||Structural changes in a process or project|
|Paperwork||Definition of common objectives|
|Invitations to work events||Complex problem solving and decision making|
Define a clear objective
What is the main objective of the meeting? It is crucial to determine what you want to achieve. In most cases, you can have strategic meetings, with your department, to decide how to carry out a new project. We also have frequent, scheduled meetings, such as monthly meetings with your supervisor to receive important feedback from both parties. Defining the objective will also allow you to review whether the meeting is really necessary.
Moreover, there are often secondary objectives that are almost as important to consider. Otherwise, you may need more meetings than you planned. For example, our primary objective may be to review the status of a project. However, as the meeting organizer, you have secondary objectives such as motivating others, seeing if you are collaborating well as a team, or providing feedback. In this way, if the conversation deviates from the stated objectives, you can detect and redirect it (5).
Plan and determine the meeting agenda
Structure your meeting. Outline the points to be discussed and decided upon. Then, decide on a logical order to follow. For each stage, you can assign milestones. That is, a goal for each rung that contributes to reaching the main objective. This way, you will not forget important information and you can always check how efficient the meeting is going objectively.
In addition, you can decide whether there are topics that are not urgent and can be left to the end. If you don’t have time for them, you can discuss them by email or at the next meeting. In the same way, you may find that you have too many issues to deal with. In this case, it may be more efficient to have two shorter meetings than one heavy meeting. In addition, a shorter meeting often produces positive pressure (6).
Allocate the time allotted to each section of the meeting
Each step or topic of the meeting should be given a time limit. Allow more time for more important or complex topics and always allow a little more time than you anticipate. This will be useful at the end to summarize and highlight key ideas and clarify doubts. Keep in mind that your meeting should be as long as it needs to be, but as short as possible (1).
Allocating times will allow you to see how long or short the meeting will be so that you can organize it around each member’s schedule. It will also guide you through the meeting so you don’t lose focus and productivity.
Create the attendance list
When creating the list of participants, it is essential to select only the necessary people. These are the ones who are directly related to the project or topic. Inviting a person who cannot contribute anything or who does not have enough commitment and interest in the main objective can have several negative effects. Primarily, on their motivation with the work, but there will also be the danger that they will be distracted or divert the conversation. This is something that can affect the other participants.
In addition, some people may only be able to influence one part of the meeting (5). They may specialize in one subtopic or it may be a person from another department, related to the task. Therefore, they may not need to be in the whole meeting, but just enough to understand the context and add value.
Attach the necessary documents to facilitate the preparation of others
It is very important to share other documents with necessary information or audiovisual elements to be projected. On many occasions, if not all participants are aware of a key piece of information beforehand, it is difficult for them to follow or participate. This supporting documentation will serve to introduce the topic and to familiarize everyone with what will be discussed.
Also, it is key to send them the agenda that will follow the meeting with all members. They can inform you of topics that you may have forgotten about and that may take up time. It will also serve to set expectations, so they can prepare in advance and be efficient.
There are many software created for meeting management. These will allow you to schedule the meeting, create the agenda, summary and much more that you may need. Having all the information online will make it much easier for meetings to be well organized. Being able to share everything with your colleagues and edit together online will make it much more likely that you will be able to be effective. One such program is nTask, and we think it’s the best fit for effective meeting strategies. In it you can manage everything from discussion points to tasks for the next meeting.
What are the strategies to keep in mind during a meeting?
Assign the necessary roles
As we mentioned, each person who participates in the meeting is there for a reason and for a purpose. Everyone should have a role in the decision making process. Therefore, it is beneficial to assign roles to each person based on their knowledge and skills. This will promote everyone’s involvement and collaboration, as well as being productive. There may be participants who are in training and have been invited to learn. Having a role will make them feel considered and prevent them from losing focus.
In addition, if your meeting is online, you may also need:
- A chat moderator
- A person in charge of technology: making sure that all audiovisual resources are working properly
Engage all voices in the conversation
Create a safe and inclusive space that promotes interactions and participation from all members of the meeting. Remember that the whole is more powerful than any one part alone. It is important that you not only listen to others. Also try to internalize and process their points of view. Diversity enriches discussions and gives room to consider various routes to a solution.
End with clear actions for the future
It is essential to end by deciding what actions you need to take to achieve the group goal. Make sure everyone understands each action needed. Each action should be assigned to a person, or several people, responsible for carrying it out. Doing this process together will help everyone take responsibility for their actions. In addition, it will serve to help each person help the others take responsibility and carry out the action successfully. Also assign deadlines.
The next meeting can begin with an update on everyone’s progress on the assigned action. If this second meeting is necessary, the date should be decided at the close of the meeting. Remember to finish on time, as failure to do so may have consequences for your colleagues’ job satisfaction.
What strategies should you consider after a meeting?
Send a summary of the meeting
One trick that will get you out of a lot of trouble is to send a summary of the meeting to each participant. The person assigned to the role of prompter will probably have a structure for the summary. Doing this will allow you to rely on a document with ideas, actions, responsibilities, dates, and decisions made and to be made, rather than relying on memory (5).
A clear summary makes it more likely that ideas have been captured and will resolve doubts about ideas or activities that occurred at the meeting. Otherwise, if nothing is written down, a meeting may be forgotten. Moreover, you can send it to those colleagues who were not at the meeting, but the implications of the meeting may be of interest to them.
Ask for feedback
The first step was to ask yourself if you really need a meeting. The last is to ask yourself how effective this meeting was? In order to get an objective idea and to be able to improve, send a quick form. This way, you will find out how they feel and what they may have missed. In the same way, they will feel that their opinion and overall satisfaction is taken into account (6).
Tips for effective leaders
The main job of a leader or organizer in a meeting is to make it easy for everyone to participate effectively. Achieving an effective meeting, however, is difficult. Nevertheless, the abundant research on the subject allows us to present you with a table of the most common reasons for inefficiencies in a meeting. In addition, for each one you will find tips on how to address and minimize them.
|Cause of inefficiency||Strategy|
|Interruptions||Establish a set of ground rules so that all participants respect each other’s opportunity to make a contribution.|
|Distractions||Personal cell phones or laptops should be silenced and put away if they are not needed for the discussion or activity. There should be no background noise, sufficient space, and adequate lighting and ventilation. Taking breaks can also help.|
|Deviations from the topic||Note these issues for further discussion. This will assure the person who has diverted the topic that he or she will also be addressed at the appropriate time.|
All topics that do not contribute to the main or secondary objectives should be redirected. You can shift the focus to another type of input that is needed.
|Interpersonal conflicts||On complex or controversial topics, intervening before colleagues can act negatively toward each other or in unconstructive ways is key. Ground rules should contain equitable aspects that minimize competitiveness.|
|Technology||Always have a backup plan in case the connection or other device fails. Test before the meeting. For example, if there is a video you want to project. Always check everything.|
Even if you are not the person in charge of organizing the meetings, sharing these tips can be essential. Starting a conversation about it with your colleagues is an important first step in becoming an effective team.
Having the ability to manage effective meetings is a key resource in today’s business world. In any company and in any position you will have to participate in meetings. A lot of your time is spent in them. Make it enriching for you, your colleagues and the business objectives.
1. Sinclair N. The 11-step guide to running effective meetings. Nature. 2019
3. Allen JA, Prange K. Another meeting just might do it!: Enhancing volunteer engagement using effective meetings. Hum Serv Organ Manag Leadersh Gov 2021;45(1):49-65
4. LeBlanc, L.A., Nosik, M.R. Planning and Leading Effective Meetings. Behav Analysis Practice  12, 696-708
6. Odermatt I, König CJ, Kleinmann M, Nussbaumer R, Rosenbaum A, Olien JL, et al. On leading meetings: Linking meeting outcomes to leadership styles. J Leadersh Organ Stud [Internet]. 2017;24(2):189-200