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How to Involve More Participants and Use Time Wisely

(Pexels photo from fauxels)

If you’re like most people, your calendar is filled with meetings. Despite their reputation for being a major time-suck, meetings are an essential part of our daily work life — and the effectiveness of yours can often determine how successful your organization will be. Poorly conducted meetings will negatively affect your team’s performance and morale, and they can be very costly. Well-run meetings can leave you and your team feeling energized with a greater sense of purpose and accomplishment.

The good news is that there are proven best practices for planning and running highly effective meetings — where everyone is prepared, engaged, focused, and left with that sense of accomplishment and purpose. Over my 25 years of experience leading teams of all shapes and sizes, I’ve picked up some best practices along the way that I’d like to share with you.

Determine if the meeting is actually necessary.

Before setting up a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really needed. Assess the meeting cost in staff hours against the anticipated value the meeting may add. Avoid meeting if the same information could be covered in an email or brief report, or you don’t have enough information to meet. It’s OK to cancel a standing meeting if you don’t have a compelling reason to bring people together. An effective meeting must serve a purpose. The more concrete your objectives, the more focused your meeting will be.

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Have an agenda.

Your agenda should include a one-sentence description of the meeting’s purpose and objectives, a list of the topics to be covered, and who will address each topic. To help keep everything (and everyone) on track, assign time blocks to each topic. There is no ideal length for a meeting; it depends on the purpose. Think of what overall outcome you want from the meeting and what activities need to occur to reach that outcome. Next to each major topic, include the type of action needed and the type of output expected, such as a decision, action plan or vote.

Establish ground rules.

We’ve all been in meetings where things seemed to get out of control. If you want your meeting to be effective, you need ground rules — and you need agreement from each participant about how to use them. Ground rules are used to set an agreed-upon set of standards and behaviors that will guide how the participants will interact with one another. Here are some sample ground rules for my meetings:

  • Humor is welcome, but not at anyone’s expense.
  • Everyone speaks — to get all the issues and ideas on the table.
  • Respect the speaker — one conversation at a time.
  • Use the issues list — to table those that are off-topic.
  • Avoid sidebar discussions — to keep the conversation relevant.

List your primary ground rules on the agenda and keep the ground rules posted at all times.

Ensure all participants are heard and engaged.

If you pick your attendees correctly, everyone will get something of value and give something of value during the meeting — making the time not only well-spent but engaging. Ask the group for ideas and opinions; don’t just talk at them and make it all about you. Keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable airing ideas or opinions in a group, so solicit feedback from the group rather than individuals. In the end, get a commitment to actions assigned to owners as well as agreement on deadlines for completion.

Recap and share the next steps.

Quickly recap the meeting by listing achievements and outcomes. Make sure you have buy-in and commitment from the participants on assignments and next steps. Thank the participants for their contributions and, if needed, decide on the date and time of the next meeting.

A version of this article was originally published by Vianova Group. B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.


5 Tips for Planning and Leading Effective Meetings was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Originally posted on B The Change - Medium by VIANOVA, Inc.


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