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Tips for Successful Meetings

Leading a successful meeting is no easy task. Have you found yourself sitting in a meeting with half a dozen of your peers wondering, “Why are we here? What did we accomplish? What am I supposed to do to add value to this effort?” If you’ve experienced a meeting like this, then you’re not alone. Obviously you were sitting a meeting that rated low on the “success” meter.

To lead a successful meeting, it’s a good idea to recognize some of the typical mistakes found in most meetings. Just a few starters.

  1. Meetings that tend to wander. Commonly known as rabbit trails. Usually resulting from not having a cohesive topic and a leader who can’t stay focused or clearly define goals.

  2. To many people present with participation from only a few. The wrong people attending the meeting.

  3. 15 minutes into the meeting before any real participation begins. Lack of prepping the attendees.

  4. 20-30 minutes into the meeting before any cohesive thought begins. Lack of clear meeting goals set at the beginning.

These are just a few of the basic problems of most meetings. Even more shocking that poorly run meetings occur is the fact that even seasoned executive leaders have the same problems. The good news is that done correctly a good meeting can be a refreshing part of everyone’s day. If run well, everyone present will feel that they’ve participated, contributed and accomplished something with their time. Done poorly the participants walk away wondering why they wasted their time, why they have to meet, and they begin to question the leader’s ability to accomplish anything. Demoralization ensues. Not a pretty scene to behold.

Learning how to run a meeting successfully is an essential skill for your career. There’s no magic formula and different meetings require different approaches. To begin building the skill, pick up a copy of Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting. Along with that, here are a few tips for running successful meetings.

To run a meeting, we’ve got to first understand the components of a meeting. In reality, a successful meeting starts before everyone gets together. There are 3 basic components.

  1. Pre-meeting prep and planning

  2. The meeting

  3. Post meeting follow-up

Understanding the components is crucial. The depth of topic and the people attending give a good indicator of how much effort should go into each component.

A quick plan on putting together a successful meeting.

  1. Pre-meeting prep and planning – Prepare your materials. Visual aids are a real bonus. Every meeting I’ve used visual aids for have gone much more smoothly as well as more productive. Another crucial prep step is to send your attendees pre-meeting materials. Pre-meeting materials can vary greatly (1) discussion to seed a couple of the attendees, (2) paperwork packets, (3) surveys, (4) email with what to expect at the meeting.

  2. The meeting – (1) Start the meeting by reviewing past meeting topics…summarize it, (2) let everyone know what the goals are for the meeting (3) main meeting discussion, (4) recap of basic points of the meeting. Establish any action steps.

  3. Post meeting follow-up – (1) type up meeting minutes, (2) send meeting minutes to attendees to make sure everyone is on the same page, (3) make edits per attendee response

That’s about it for a basic meeting. Following these steps will help make your meetings more productive.

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