Tag Archives: meetings

Five Steps To Better Meetings

Communication is critical for project success, but meetings often aren’t. Here are a few steps for making your project meetings better.

Hold Less Meetings – If people are in meetings, then no real work is getting done. However, meetings will seldom end early, people will always find topics to discuss. Therefore, be conscious of cancelling meetings without a clear purpose and being judicious with invitees. In practice, many people attend meetings because it’s the only way to find out what’s happening – providing clear summaries via email or online can eliminate this.

Circulate Materials In Advance – if a document is going to be reviewed, share it in advance. You will likely get better, more targeted feedback. Also, if attendees have a chance to form views independently, then the quality of feedback will be improved, if people hear other’s feedback before forming their own views (as is likely to happen if they’ve only just reviewed the document) then groupthink is more likely.

Make Next Steps Clear – Nothing is more ambiguous than multiple people’s recollections of a meeting. Ensure that next steps are specified with exactly one accountable person, the action they need to take and when they are expected to do it. Ensure that the accountable party agrees to next steps in the meeting.

Determine The Purpose Of The Meeting and Make It Clear – meetings can be held for lots of reasons, but if one attendee thinks they are in a brainstorming session and another thinks they are in a decision meeting, then the meeting will not go well. Make the meeting goal and roles of attendees clear.

Finish Early – If you meeting has met its purpose. End it. There’s no need to carry on a meeting just to fill the space. Some people hold meetings with all attendees standing up for this reason, if everyone’s standing up, then the chance of anyone wanting to drag out the meeting are slim.

Holding better meetings

Even if you attend just 2 hours of meetings each working day over the course of your career, then that’s easily 2 solid years worth of meetings over the course of your life. Meetings are a crucial part of any project, but insufficient time is often invested in them, here are a few ideas for improvement to make your ‘2 years of meetings’ better:

Each meeting should have a clear goal

Meetings have multiple functions these including: deciding, informing, asking for something or brainstorming. Be clear on what your meeting is for and make this clear in the meeting title, and whilst you’re at it, consider if you really do need a meeting to meet that that objective – would an email or memo suffice? If so, use an email or a memo. You’re saving not just your time but that of participants so the benefit is magnified. 

Finishes meetings early if you can

If you take a moment to think about it, it’s bizarre that most meetings take exactly the time they’re alloted. If you scheduled an hour to write a report on your own, it may ultimately take anywhere between 15 minutes and 4 hours. However, meetings tend to take the time they’re given, this implies that, to the point above, goals are not clear. Once the goal is met, end the meeting. People will always invent topics to fill a blank agenda – don’t allow it.

Scope the invitee list

Meetings are not a spectator sport. If you have a clear goal, it should be clear who should attend the meeting. Often people attend meeting because they want to know what’s going on, you can avoid this problem by writing crisp meeting summaries and sending them once the meeting ends.

Don’t be scared to cancel meetings

Just as finishing early is good, so is cancelling a recurring meeting that isn’t needed. Recurring meetings can easily invent their own purpose, rather than meeting clear goals. If you don’t have a clear objective cancel the meeting.

Do you really need an hour?

A hour seems to have developed as the default time for meetings, however, that might be too long or too short depending on the topic at hand. Consider huddles or micro-meetings of 15 minutes to coordinate activities without getting dragged down into the details. Equally, real brainstorming can take over an hour to produce really good ideas, because it takes time to build on conventional ideas and innovative thinking.