By: Alisha Sedor
I was recently asked by a colleague to chat through how I go about setting agendas for meetings to make sure we're being effective and efficient with our time. Especially if you work on a very collaborative team, having an excess of meetings can be common because you want lots of inputs. There are many ways to run effective meetings, but here are the basics of how I think about it.
- Outline the goal(s) - what's the purpose of this meeting and what are you hoping to get out of it?
- Who are the parties that need to be there? Each person might have different needs for the goal, so make sure you think about the goals from all parties' perspectives.
- Identify all of the decisions that need to be made in the meeting and ensure there is a clear owner assigned to each.
- If there are materials needed for the meeting, make sure all parties have copies in advance.
- Make time estimates of how long you need to spend on each topic, and include those in the agenda.
- Circulate your agenda beforehand with links or attachments of relevant materials (step 4).
- Identify a time-keeper. This person will keep track of the time estimates outlined in the agenda. If you're running out of time on a particular topic, the person running the meeting should decide if you want to move on or purposefully stick with that topic and set a follow-up meeting to cover the remaining items.
- Take notes yourself or designate someone to take down the highlights of the meeting.
- Don't be afraid to move things "offline" - If someone is spending a lot of time on a topic that is outside the goals of the meeting or decisions need to be made later, make note to come back to it in a different venue and move the conversation back to the issue at hand.
- Send minutes or notes from the meeting with any takeaways and action items to all parties in attendance and anyone who needs to be informed of the meeting results that was unable to attend.
If you're setting up a recurring meeting with colleague or client, it can be helpful to treat the first meeting as a bit of an informational interview. The output from that meeting will influence the agendas of your future meetings. Ask the other party (or parties) questions such as:
- Tell me more about your role and what you need from this partnership.
- What should the cadence and content of this meeting be?
- What information do you need me to bring or send in advance so that we can make this time as productive as possible?
- Do we always need to have a meeting or can we sometimes send an email or cancel if we don't have something to discuss?
Running effective meetings becomes second nature the more you do it. You learn how to tactfully move the conversation along if other attendees get stuck on a specific topic and you get better at estimating how much time you need to discuss certain topics. With just a little time for preparation and organization, you can really help drive yourself and your team forward and spend your time more efficiently.