Tips for leading great meetings

Ever get stuck in meetings that drag on and on and get virtually nothing accomplished? We’ve all been on the phone during conference calls where we go through the weather forecast, weekend plans or baby announcements from each and every single participant before anyone even begins talking about what needs to be talked about! There is a time and place for catching up and unfortunately project meetings are neither of those. Don’t be annoying; be that person everyone refers to as the boss that gets $#!% done!

Make an agenda. Stick to it.

Even if you aren’t 100% sure what you need to talk about during the meeting, bullet point a few top line tasks and leave room for discussion later on. Address the agenda once everyone (or enough) people are in the meeting to get the ball rolling.

Set meeting end times to 5 minutes before the top of the hour/half hour.

This is a trick I learned from Project Managers at Google. Set meetings to end at the :25 or :55 hour mark as meetings always (I debated between saying tend to or typically, but this happens too often to not be considered a truth) run late. We get caught up in debate or just plum lose track of time—those 5 extra minutes are crucial to making sure you wrap up everything that needs to be discussed in the meeting and that you don’t 1) make your participants late for other meetings or 2) make people who are waiting for your conference room late for their meeting. If we all become a little more conscious of others time as well as our own we’ll prevent that snowball effect of late meetings that really throw off everyone’s day.

Remind everyone how much time we have in the meeting and address heftiest item LAST.

This requires a little bit of planning. Like, 2 minutes of looking at your agenda to determine what will most likely drive the bulk of the conversation. And while it seems counter-intuitive, you will actually accomplish more by getting the little things out of the way and saving the latter half of your meeting for the big discussions. The time constraint might even encourage faster resolution. We hope.

Thank your participants for their time.

It’s a small and simple gesture that shows your appreciation for people meeting today (which is a rarity what with the advent of this thing called the “Cloud” and “Social Collaboration”). Understand that everyone has taken time out of their busy schedule to meet you at this specific date and time. Don’t hold them up and don’t waste their time lest they dismiss your meetings in the future…

Take things offline when available.

Simple rule—if it doesn’t pertain to at least 90% of the participants of the meeting, table it and take it offline. Make a note of when you will be following up with participants, create another separate meeting if needed or collaborate online.

Remember that one meeting that left you stunned at how efficient and productive it was? Let’s make that EVERY meeting.

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