Regular meetings are an important part of running a team. Sometimes, however, businesses hold so many meetings that efficiency and productivity are affected.
If a meeting isn’t effective, the attendees will feel like they wasted their time.
Why wasn’t the issue or update communicated over email instead?
Why did I have to attend that meeting when the issue discussed didn’t affect me?
I’m buried in work, so why did I have to stop what I was doing to spend an hour on that?
It’s crucial for managers to ensure that the way they plan and hold meetings doesn’t affect company productivity. This article discusses what an effective meeting is, some common meeting mistakes, and practical tips for managing meetings.
What are effective meetings?
An effective meeting is one in which team members come together to discuss pre-determined issues. But that’s not all. It also determines the way forward. The participants should be clear on their roles and the next steps when the meeting ends.
Notably, a meeting doesn’t have to solve an existing problem to be considered effective. A team may meet for many other reasons. For example, a manager might decide to bring everyone together to brainstorm ideas or to share company updates.
Benefits of managing meetings effectively
Effective meetings promote open and clear communication among team members. By setting an agenda and sticking to it, everyone knows what to expect and can come to the meeting prepared with any updates or concerns.
Here are just some of the benefits of managing meetings effectively:
Effective meetings foster communication and collaboration. Teams deliberate on the issues at hand and decide on the way forward in the shortest time possible.
Take the example of a development team meeting to review changes in user stories. Such an issue may not be completely resolved in one meeting, and it may involve participation from other teams, such as accounting or finance. However, each meeting should move the company closer to finding a solution.
For instance, a few developers may be tasked with checking the technical feasibility of the proposed changes, and the accounting team might assess the expected financial implications. These teams could present their findings during the next meeting and decide on whether to include the new feature.
Managing meetings effectively ensures timely decision-making. Leaders can facilitate fast decision-making by encouraging all attendees to participate in these sessions.
In fact, employees look forward to participating in decision-making. According to a 2023 report, 28% of employees prefer leaders who encourage collaborative decision-making.
Suppose a development team decides that a technical feasibility assessment should be done for a new feature. However, they fail to assign the task to a specific member. It is not until the next meeting that the manager realizes there’s no feasibility report.
Managing meetings effectively helps ensure team member accountability. Everyone knows their role, reducing the likelihood of blame-shifting and tasks left undone.
Effective monitoring and control
An important aspect of regular meetings is monitoring team members’ progress and allowing the team to identify and address deviations from the project plan. This is only possible through effective meeting management.
With top-notch monitoring and control, the entire team receives regular updates on outstanding issues.
Effective management means most employees don’t need to spend a lot of time in meetings.
According to a 2022 report, about 83.13% of employees spend up to 33% of their working hours in meetings. This high participation reduces the amount of time they have to spend on core business functions. It may also explain why deadlines are missed.
But when employees are only invited to the meetings that matter, they have more time for other work.
That allows them to better manage their time, increasing their productivity and helping your company thrive.
7 tips for managing a meeting effectively
Planning a meeting and inviting the relevant attendees is just part of effective management. Managers must also oversee the discussion to ensure that every minute counts.
Here’s what you can do to make sure every meeting is a success:
1. Outline the goal of the meeting
There are two important questions to answer when considering whether to hold a meeting:
Could the information be shared in a better way?
If you don’t expect to discuss an issue or gather insights or feedback from other participants, you might not need the meeting at all. For instance, you can share updates through an email or company newsletter, which employees can review when they have time.
What will be the primary goal of the meeting?
If a meeting is the best way to tackle an issue or share information, the next task should be to determine the purpose. When you name the purpose, you can keep the meeting on track.
2. Identify the attendees and their roles
Having all stakeholders at a meeting doesn’t make that meeting effective. You want to invite only those who’ll add value to the discussion.
For each stakeholder, ask these two important questions:
Should [stakeholder] attend this meeting?
Does [stakeholder] have a role to play in this meeting?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, reconsider who you plan to invite.
3. Prepare and share the agenda items with participants
Outlining the goals of a scheduled meeting before it begins prepares the meeting-goers. Share the meeting’s objectives and any previously discussed issues that need to be followed up on.
The agenda items should also highlight who’ll be addressing each one and the allocated time for each.
4. Note the minutes during the meeting
Designate one individual to take notes for the meeting. This person should record the actionable plan for each agenda item. They should also state whether any feedback is expected during the next meeting.
Here’s an example of a minute regarding adding an order-tracking feature:
Jane Smith was assigned as team lead to verify the feasibility of adding an order-tracking feature to the client’s website. She is expected to share her findings with the project manager and accounting team by November 15, 2023.
5. Delegate action items to participants
An effective meeting leads to a detailed action plan. However, this action plan must be assigned to specific team members — those who are best fit for the task. For example, a product-related action item should be assigned to the development team.
The team should also set the expected completion date for each action plan.
6. Be efficient with time
Time management is a huge indicator of an effective meeting. Participants should adhere to the meeting’s start and end times.
Only about 32.7% of meetings last 30 minutes or less. Managers can reduce the time spent in meetings by allocating specific time slots for each agenda item. They should also manage conflicts and distractions to help ensure the meetings end on time.
7. Establish accountability
Assigning action items to participants is just one way to help ensure meetings are effective. Managers must also establish accountability. This requires following up on the status of each action item during future meetings.
One common practice done during meetings is revisiting the previous meeting’s minutes. The time allocated for this task may be used to give the attendees an update on what’s been accomplished and what remains pending.
5 common mistakes when managing meetings
Considering how important most meetings are, managers can’t afford to mismanage them. Ineffective meetings waste company resources and undermine employees’ productivity.
Here are some common mistakes made when managing meetings:
1. Lacking clear meeting goals
A lack of a clear meeting agenda can lead to a disorganized and unproductive meeting. It may also lead to the need for several meetings to address an issue that should have only required one session.
Project teams should only meet when necessary — and only with a clear agenda.
2. Allowing the meeting to go off-track
Meetings can sometimes go off-track, particularly if the facilitator didn’t establish the schedule beforehand.
Also, simple issues like late arrivals mean the meeting won’t start on time. It may also mean not every agenda item is covered, prompting the need for future meetings.
3. Failing to adequately prepare for the meeting
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
This adage haunts many project teams.
Some facilitators schedule meetings but fail to prepare agendas or send invitations. In a worst-case scenario, the most important participant may fail to show up. Alternatively, they may attend the meeting but not have the documents and other items they need for it.
4. Failing to follow up
Some managers facilitate meetings effectively and ensure that all the agenda items are addressed. They also assign action items to specific team members. However, they may not follow up on the status of those action items. This stagnates the project’s process, especially when the action items must be closed for the project to progress.
5. Not meeting regularly
Project teams should meet regularly to identify and address any issues that have arisen. Otherwise, these issues may pile up.
Some problems are also time-bound, meaning they get worse the longer they remain unaddressed.
How to measure the effectiveness of meetings
There’s no specific metric for measuring the effectiveness of meetings. However, effective meetings share a lot of similarities. Let’s discuss four ways to effectively manage meetings.
1. Track how long each meeting takes
Establish a timeline for when the meeting should start and end, and time how long the meeting actually lasts. Then, compare the two timelines. A meeting that ends a few minutes before or after the estimated time is often effective. If you’re going over your established time limit, look at how you can make the meeting more efficient.
2. Count the number of attendees vs. invitees
Compare the number of invitations sent for the meeting with the number of attendees. This number may be captured in the meeting minutes.
Perfect attendance is often impossible; however, the number of attendees should be higher than the number of absentees. If it’s not, the meeting is likely ineffective.
3. Track the action items
Each meeting should end with action items, as you can use these to track effectiveness. For example, you might track how many action items are proposed per meeting or how many items from previous meetings are implemented.
4. Note the level of participation and engagement
Record the number of attendees who participate actively in each meeting. A high percentage of participants is a sign of an effective meeting.
In contrast, meetings in which attendees avoid offering suggestions or raising concerns are ineffective.
Hold fewer meetings by managing them effectively
Meetings are a necessary component of any business. However, if they aren’t managed effectively, company resources are wasted.
Effective meeting management fosters communication and collaboration, which leads to productivity and efficiency.
Managers can use software like Motion to schedule meetings, send meeting invitations, and share agenda items. Not only that, but teams can also use Motion to track the action plans discussed during company meetings.
Change how you manage meetings by signing up for Motion’s 7-day free trial today.