6 tips for making your meetings more effective

Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, meetings will be a necessary way to help bring people together to discuss ideas, solve problems, review progress and drive outcomes. Unfortunately, meetings have been deemed one of the most major time wasters in the workplace today. In fact, when The Muse conducted a survey on unproductive meetings, they found executives view more than 67% of meetings as failures.

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Most of us won’t have had any formal training in how to hold a meeting. According to Elise Keith, CEO of Lucid Meetings, less than 25% of managers receive any training on meetings. However, it isn’t hard to learn to do it well. Here are our 6 tips to get you started with running effective meetings.

Know the purpose and outcome of the meeting

Research has shown that middle managers spend 35% of their time in meetings, and upper management spend at least half their day meeting with other people. Therefore, adding meetings to these busy schedules should be avoided where possible.

There are only a few things worse in the working world than being pulled to a meeting which could have been a simple email. Having a clear purpose and outcome will ensure you aren’t holding meetings that simply aren’t necessary.

Lew Cirne, the chief of New Relic, a software analytics company suggests that in order to keep meetings in check and ensure you are making the best use of everyone’s time, you must do a meeting audit every few months. “One of the things I do on a quarterly basis is to review the standing meetings on my calendar, and every one of them ought to be able defend itself,” he said. ““The point is not to keep going to that meeting just because you always have to go. I ask myself ‘Why?’ and I encourage my managers to question their calendars, too.”

Have the right tools in place

In today’s workplace, the likelihood of everyone being in the office at the same time for a meeting is low. Remote working has been taking off over the past couple of years, which is why you must learn what tools will help you make remote meetings work in order to achieve effective meetings in general.

There is a number of tools out there that make the process of running meetings with remote employees easier, faster and more collaborative. Here at entrustIT, we recommend Microsoft Teams. It is based within the Office 365 suite and will transform your meeting experience. Not only can you meet with anyone, anywhere but you can meet with intelligence through the ability to share context and content as you go, as well as confidence through high-quality audio, video and screen-sharing with the same security and compliance of O365. Microsoft have described the experience as ‘reinventing the meeting life cycle’. Microsoft Teams is used across all the entrustIT Group offices and we think it’s great! Find out why here.

Tone of voice and facial expressions cannot be conveyed via email and texts. Using tools that allow video conferencing such as Microsoft Teams will completely change a meeting as it makes employees aware they are interacting with real people and not just a voice on a conference phone.

Create an agenda

A simple agenda, distributed in advance, is one of the most important elements in ensuring a productive and effective meeting. Firstly, it will set the right tone by letting participants know there is a legitimate business purpose for the meeting, with specific goals and outcomes to be achieved. Secondly, by giving participants written reminders of what needs to be accomplished, it will focus them in a way verbal communication may not.

While this may seem like an obvious requirement, it has been found that a lot of meetings start with no clear purpose. This leaves room for participants to move off topic, resulting in wasted time and a very unproductive meeting. An agenda will ensure that if the discussion does wander off course, the meeting can get back on track easily. 

Get everyone engaged

When holding meetings, there is an opportunity cost as employees are losing valuable time they could have otherwise spent getting important tasks done. Consequently, you must make sure you have engaged employees who are making the most of their time when inviting them to a meeting.

With the feelings towards meetings in the present day, we understand it can be hard to keep participants engaged, especially if they are a regular occurrence. Spend the first 5 minutes using a simple ice breaker to get everyone saying something. A simple change like that has very positive results.

Take notes and share them

The key to getting maximum effectiveness from a meeting is to take accurate notes and share them with others. This will help you follow up and ensure deadlines are respected. It will also mean people recognise the value of the meeting if they can see what has come out of them.

Microsoft Teams help you stay organised after meetings by having a place where you can upload meeting recordings and notes into the same Teams meeting thread. You will also be able to follow up through the Teams chat and keep everyone in the loop with future updates. If your meeting with specific participants is regular, having a Teams implemented can prove to be very helpful as you can access previous meeting notes and recordings so you can prepare with more context.

OneNote is another tool provided by Microsoft which is also great for notes taking within meetings. It is your very own digital notebook and can be accessed for free on your tablet, phone and computer. As it is a member of the Office family, it works seamlessly with all your favourite Office apps. For example, you can shape notes with points pulled from Outlook email, or embed an Excel table.

Respect peoples time

This tip includes the obvious such as starting and ending on time, as well as only scheduling as much time as you need. A meeting that moves off topic and ends up being longer than needed is hardly effective and can lead to disengagement. Research shows that engagement in meetings starts to drop off quite rapidly after about 30 minutes. In fact, experts have said the ideal length of a well-planned team meeting is 15 minutes!

Additionally, as discussed earlier, meetings always involve an opportunity cost. As a result, it is paramount to not waste peoples time and only invite people who need to be there.

If meetings are done wrong, they can cause immense frustration in an organisation. However, if used wisely, they can be a great business tool.

Technology can have a particularly positive impact on meetings and will take them to the next level. From allowing you to create an agenda and send it out digitally, to meeting with your employees wherever they are over video conference, there are numerous tools that will supercharge your meeting efficiency.

Microsoft’s popular Office 365 and Microsoft 365 Enterprise services have been designed with the modern workforce in mind bringing people, conversation and content together. The tools within these productivity suites have the power to transform unproductive meetings into not only more effective, but enjoyable ones for everyone involved. This is especially true for Microsoft Teams, which automates the full life cycle of meetings and saves you time so you can be focused and empowered to get more done. Additionally, by using OneNote in conjunction with this you will be able to stay organised and share items with colleagues before, during and after meetings with ease.

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your meetings and how implementing the right tools can help, why not learn more about the Office 365 suite and some of the exciting tools that sit within it.  

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