With proper meeting management, you can run efficient and productive meetings with essential personnel. It’s easy to keep a team motivated to meet on a regular basis when they know that the meeting will be organized and stay on topic. If you’re struggling to close the skills gap, see if you fall into any of the following categories.
1. You schedule a meeting and then leaving your participants in the dark
You’re calling a meeting to have a productive discussion. So don’t let your participant list get in the way of productivity. Evaluate who is attending, make sure that you have everyone necessary and no one who isn’t. This way, the discussion will truly involve all concerned parties, and those who don't have an opinion won’t be sitting at the table disengaged.
This also means that when you have important information that has changed since you sent out the original meeting invite, your attendees should be notified of this. If it’s a mass email that everyone was copied on, then you’re probably set. Otherwise, send a quick note if you got an update from the client over the phone, or in a direct email.
2. You don’t publish your agenda, or worse, don’t have one.
This is a very close corollary to the first symptom. That is, you haven’t made a meeting agenda available to your participants. You need to make sure that they are aware of what will be discussed, with enough detail that they can prepare for the topics that will involve their work or input. That means “project update” isn’t enough. Using the terms “status update” is a very quick way to lose your audience.
A better plan would be to make a section header for project updates, then have each specific update listed out below it. That way, everyone who has played a hand in those updates can provide the necessary information. It also shows that you are aware of the work that your team has been putting in since the last time you asked for a status update. This genuine show of interest can go a long way.
3. You allow off-topic discussions (both important or irrelevant)
Every meeting involves a little bit of small talk. Some of the side conversations even could be important to another portion of the same project. But the meeting is there for everyone to discuss a specific series of topics. If someone starts bringing up outside ideas, you don’t want to completely quash that discussion. But you do want to make sure that everyone feels their time is valued. So if the outside idea only pertains to a subset of the meeting attendees, it needs to be discussed elsewhere.
Make sure to acknowledge the idea, and mention that you’ll make a note to follow up on it within a reasonable amount of time. Here’s the next trick: actually follow up on the idea! It might not be a goldmine, but the last thing you want is to discourage people from bringing their ideas forward. You just want to discourage them from talking about an off-topic idea during your meeting that needs to be run efficiently.
4. There are no notes on meeting discussions
There is a lot of information brought up during every meeting. So much so that it’s quite difficult to remember everything that went on during the time you spent with your team. If you think you’ll be too busy to take notes yourself, designate someone else to be the scribe or secretary. Make sure that the notes are detailed enough that someone who needs to be brought up to speed after the fact can read through them and be familiar with the discussion going forward.
5. There are no follow up emails or meeting minutes
Those notes that you should be taking? Don’t file them away in the ‘never looking at again’ drawer. Compile them and send them out to the participants as a review. This will help remind them about what was discussed, and may help answer some questions if they weren’t completely engaged during a crucial talking point.
And the off-topic discussions that you so deftly avoided earlier? This is a perfect time to mention them as well. Point out that your co-worker had an idea that needs further discussion, and bring up what you’ve looked into so far. This might not be anything more than what was said at the meeting, but you’ll have a starting point.
The last thing in your summary email is the next meeting to be scheduled. You may have discussed this during the meeting, but if not, schedule it immediately. Otherwise, it can slip away.