5 Tips for Running Effective Meetings
We’ve all been there: sitting in a meeting, cursing the waste of time. How many office humour memes have been inspired by bad meetings?
The thing is, though, often meetings are essential to the work you’re doing. They’re an opportunity to connect with colleagues face-to-face, hash out complex problems, or brainstorm – none of which can happen effectively in an email thread. There is such a thing as a great meeting.
If you’re tasked with planning a meeting at your nonprofit workplace, here are 5 strategies to ensure your meeting isn’t fodder for Dilbert comics:
1. Have a purpose
When planning a meeting, ask yourself the old office adage: Could this be an email instead? If it could, do not plan the meeting. Don’t do it.
Also consider why the people you’re inviting need to be there. Is the meeting directly relevant to their work? Will they want to have input? Will they offer a valuable perspective? If there’s not a clear purpose for your invitees to attend, it will be a time waster for them. By the same token, also ensure all the relevant stakeholders will be present, so your hands aren’t tied when it comes to decision-making.
2. Have an agenda… with buffer time for chit chat
It’s important to have an agenda, even a basic one, to ensure that the discussion stays on track and you cover the relevant topics. But when planning your agenda, be sure to build in a bit of buffer time for chit chat. Think the discussion at hand will take half an hour? Book the meeting for forty-five minutes. Social connection is how you build trusting relationships with colleagues, so having the time for a quick, “How was your weekend?” will go a long way. Plus, abruptly jumping into the discussion – or ending the discussion curtly and walking out – is awkward and comes off as a bit rude.
3. Send materials ahead of time
You will get so much more done in meetings if people have a chance to look at what you’ll be discussing beforehand. We know, it’s ultimately up to your participants to actually read the materials, but it’s on you to ensure that they’re provided with easily-digestible materials in a timely manner. Sending materials early is also respectful of introverts, who like to have time to process and think before speaking.
4. Stay on schedule and on topic
End the meeting when it’s supposed to end. If it seems the discussion is actually going to take two hours instead of one, then you probably didn’t book the meeting for the correct amount of time. Allow the conversation to pick up at a later date. It’s disrespectful of people’s time otherwise. Similarly, stay on topic. If you called the meeting to discuss a specific topic, don’t let the conversation be hijacked. If it does, steer it back to the matter at hand. You can book another time to explore other discussions that pop up.
5. Make it comfortable
Is your meeting at 8am? Bring coffee and pastries (or at least coffee!). Over lunch? Let people bring food, or else provide it. You don’t want someone skipping a meal because they’re in back-to-back meetings midday.
In terms of environment, if it’s an informal brainstorm or your weekly team meeting, you might want to rethink the formal conference room if you can. Maybe move into a more casual meeting space, or even head outside.
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