Most of us with experience working corporately will be able to recall meetings that lacked direction and took up several hours of our valuable work time with little being gained for the time spent. The reality is that a lot of meetings could be dramatically improved with more attention paid to their structure and content. An effective meeting has the power to inform, gain new business insights and drive change. If you are a manager who is planning your next meeting, pay attention to these top tips to ensure that the time spent is both productive and insightful.

Have a clear purpose and agenda

There is little point in having a poorly planned meeting that has no distinct goals or objectives. Meetings such as these can quickly disintegrate into simple “talking shops” and are liable to lose focus quickly. Ensure firstly that you know exactly what you want to achieve from holding the meeting and that this goal is achievable in the timescale allocated. Structure the meeting effectively into the key points that need to be discussed, giving enough time so that effective conversations can take place but not more than is needed for each topic. It is also worth delegating staff to act as meeting facilitators, especially for larger group attendances. This can help to ensure that all attendees keep on track with discussions and the timeslots for each agenda item are adhered to. The overriding goal is to have actionable outcomes from every meeting that takes place, and it is important to remember that a well-structured agenda with clear purpose to each item can be integral in achieving this.

Choose the right venue

Whilst some short meetings can be held effectively online, the risk of tech issues becomes more prominent for longer meetings and for larger groups. Poor connections and lag when presenting information can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of any meeting. It makes perfect sense to hire a meeting room for larger gatherings and when you need your team to focus on a variety of topics and tasks that require input and discussion. A well-equipped meeting room will have the space and the facilities for break out tasks, group discussions and the presenting of information in a coherent and effective manner. As a general rule it is also best to avoid having meetings in public places (such as cafes) or in a home office. These environments tend not to be suitably professional locations for meetings and can project the wrong corporate image. Dedicated meeting rooms offer an absence of distractions in a more formal environment for business purposes.

Ensure you have a dedicated note taker 

There is little point holding a meeting that is universally acknowledged to have been both effective and productive and then realizing weeks later that the salient points of the conversations and key actions have become confused or forgotten. The value of a dedicated note taker in meetings cannot be overstated. Having a paper or electronic record of the outcomes for each agenda item along with responsibilities for undertaking tasks will ensure that the meeting produces results. Today there are many apps such as Evernote, Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote that can help ensure that a high-quality record of the meeting can be taken in real time and distributed soon after the meeting whilst it is still fresh in attendees’ minds.

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