Give your meetings purpose

Far too often, when people are asked what was decided in a meeting, the response is: To have another meeting. Meetings for the sake of meeting accomplish nothing. In order for a meeting to be effective, it must advance your project and move the ball forward.

How can you make your meetings count?

  • Have an agenda. If you’re facilitating a meeting, always prepare an agenda in advance. Distribute it ahead of time and insist that everyone come to the meeting prepared to discuss the key points. An agenda will help to keep everyone focused and will bring structure to the conversation.
  • Keep meetings short. A wise person once suggested that all meetings should be held in the hallway where everyone remains standing. Why? Rather than allowing a group to become idle in their seats, standing in a hallway forces everyone get to the point. While you don’t have to go so far as to have everyone standing, you should recognize that long meetings promote rambling and people zoning out. Short meetings promote direct, concise communication.
  • Ask people to turn off their mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets make communication quick and easy, but they can be a big distraction in a meeting. When people are staring at their phones, they aren’t paying attention to what you and others have to say.
  • Start by asking the tough questions others may not want to ask. Not only will this give you credibility, it will set the tone for a frank, honest discussion. Others in the rooms are then more likely to be candid.
  • Use strong visuals. Visuals help people to focus on what’s important. Contrary to what some may say, PowerPoint remains a very effective tool when it’s used appropriately. All slides should be simple with a clean design. Avoid cluttering slides with tons of text and too many images.
  • At the conclusion of a meeting, ask, “What are our next steps?” This discussion should result in well-defined tasks each person will complete before the next meeting. When the group leaves the meeting, they should know exactly who is responsible for each task and when those tasks are to be completed.

If you follow these tips, your meetings should be more focused and will lead to action.

Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good® LLC which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.

Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.

Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.

Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups: They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.