If you haven’t had that thought after leaving a meeting, you’re one of lucky ones. Meetings go with the workplace like peanut butter and jelly. Because of COVID-19, many meetings have shifted to an online format, where the face-to-face interaction becomes face-to screen. As many of us have learned, Zoom fatigue is a real issue, and no one wants to do more meetings than they should. While many of us are well-versed in this new technological landscape we now live in, you can still train your employees to be better participants, for your sake and theirs. For those of you holding in-office meetings, some of these strategies are still applicable. Here are six simple but effective ways to make the most out of your meetings.
- Stick to the agenda as much as possible. It’s natural for the main topic to veer slightly off course, but don’t let an unrelated conversation take over the meeting. The momentum can snowball faster than you expect, resulting in lost time that should have been spent better. If these side topics are related to work but not the meeting at hand, table them for next time. Acknowledge that they will be discussed in the future. You’re holding a meeting for a reason, so gently take the reins and steer the topic back to where it was. Everyone will be grateful knowing that the intention of the meeting was met.
- Take notes. This is an easy tip to forget that can come back to haunt you later. It’s vital to have some record what is discussed. That way, anyone can refer to the notes after the meeting instead of sending you a barrage of emails. Additionally, make sure your notetaker is prompt and getting those notes out to everyone in a timely manner. In a virtual space, you can record the meeting, but it can be a hassle for someone to click through the entire video to find a snippet of information. If it’s within your budget, we recommend purchasing a transcribing software. It won’t capture every word perfectly, but it can make filtering info easier.
- End on time, if not a few minutes early. This should go without saying. No one wants to be held hostage during a meeting. If you’re the facilitator, it’s your job to watch the clock and not go over. Your employees’ time is just as valuable as yours. This goes back to following the agenda. Doing so will help you stay on time. However long ago you had a meeting scheduled, it will most likely interrupt the workflow of your employees. If you end on time, they can get back to their work. Places to be and things to do, after all.
- Encourage use of the chat box. This only applies to virtual meetings. There’s an expectation for most, if not all, your employees to participate in some way during the meeting. Some of them will have no problems sharing their thoughts. Others might be more hesitant. For an in-office meeting, the facilitator might call on those quieter employees, and that could have mixed results. In a virtual meeting, however, the chat box allows everyone to engage in the meeting without needing to speak up. Even for those employees who always have something to say, redirecting them to use the chat box is a great way for them to still share their thoughts and move forward with the meeting as planned. When you provide your employees with more that one way to engage, they’ll feel more comfortable and included. Doing so also means you don’t have to talk the entire time, so it’s a win-win!
- Facilitate the work, goals, and mission of your company. You have to know the purpose and outcome when you enter. Meetings are some of the few times where everyone is gathered together, so the content should be relevant to them. If all you have is a list of quick and minor updates, don’t waste time holding a meeting. Send an email and save everyone the trouble. Share any structural or procedural changes, devise solutions to recurring problems, determine which clients are still reliable—whatever the case, use the meetings to further your company’s agenda.
- Create a space for your employees to share their thoughts. A productive meeting isn’t one that’s entirely a lecture and death by PowerPoint. You’ll lose your employees in the first few minutes if you go down that path. As packed as your agenda may be, make sure you leave space for anyone to voice comments, questions, or concerns. It’s likely that if one person has something to say, there will be others who will feel the same way, and meetings are a great way to address any issues.
Meetings can be the cause of many headaches, but you can at least make them more valuable and productive. You can informally train your employees to be better at meetings. Take the tips we shared, apply them to your meetings, and see how they change. If you can get your employees to avoid thinking the opening six words of this article, then you’re already on the road to success.
- “12 Ways to Lead More Productive Meetings,” LinkedIn, December 7, 2020, https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/productivity-tips/12-ways-to-lead-more-productive-meetings
- “6 Expert Tips To Make Meetings More Effective And Engaging,” Forbes, June 13, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/06/13/six-expert-tips-to-make-meetings-more-effective-and-engaging/?sh=7c6679bf79db