6-steps guide to run a productive meeting

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Everyone faces the need to hold a meeting at least once in a lifetime, but this necessity scares many. For ones who get their feet cold and palms sweat, we introduce a set of 6 simple yet proven tips on how to run a productive meeting.

Define a purpose

How do you judge whether a meeting was productive or not? Is it only if a clear decision is drawn at the end? Or an effective meeting is the one where brand new ideas are generated? Or – the one slotted in 60 minutes? Or – if all participants are given a chance to say a thought? Or – if it gets many attendees?

Productivity criteria are unclear, agree. Different meetings serve distinct purposes, and we can’t compare brainstorming with a strategic planning session or a daily stand-up with an annual conference. So, to get what you expected, start with answering what kind of a meeting you need to organize. The aim may be:

  • to develop & agree on a project plan
  • to announce changes, guidelines, or decrees
  • to handle a review or a retrospective
  • to work out a challenge or opportunity
  • to generate fresh ideas
  • to resolve in-personal conflicts.

Prepare yourself and participants

All productive meetings have something in common, that is – an agenda. A clear worklist is essential because:

  • it helps not to miss matters
  • it allows prioritizing TBDs
  • it assists in sticking to the time provided.

Even a 15-minute call shall have a set of key points – otherwise, it will turn out to be a casual conversation, but not a working meeting. And if you organize something that involves many people, a thorough preparation becomes even worthier.

Outline 3-5 groups of matters you need to cover and enrich them with facts. For example:

Lead generation → 20% fewer unique website visitors, compared to the previous month.

Revenue → 30% higher marketing expenses, compared to planned; ask about ad campaigns’ ongoing control.

After, share the list of “to be discussed” with participants 1-3 days beforehand, so they can skim through it and prepare answers, thoughts, complaints, etc. You can choose whatever format, but we suggest using visual collaboration tools because they are way more accessible and handy.

Estimate duration & book time in a calendar

An ordinary meeting shouldn’t last more than 1 hour. Ideally, it’s better to stick to 30-45 minutes: 20-25 for the main part and 10-15 minutes for questions.

You need to arrange a day and time when all participants can fluently join the event. If the company uses Google accounts, navigate to the Calendar and tick people you want to invite, so you can see their planned affairs for the week, find a “spare window”, and book it. Don’t forget to select “Notify people” so that they will receive an email notification and a “15-minutes before” reminder.

If you plan to invite third parties and can’t see their calendars, try Calendly. It allows an organizer to create a 1 meeting request, share this with participants, and ask them to choose meeting time from several options.

Be tech equipped

You have limited time to run a meeting, so don’t let any petty failures, like a broken mouse or poor microphone sound, steal a minute from you.

It’s recommended to polish a speech several times – to see how long it takes to tell a single slide, at what exact point to switch to the next slide, how tables and charts look, how animation works, whether headlines and text are seeable, etc.

Handouts may be a good idea for a meeting, but only if they rehearse some information from your speech. Say, key numbers or facts. If these are generic phrases or endless tables, it is unlikely that anyone will read them.

Announce “rules of the game”

Participants want to know what to expect from a meeting, so announce a timeline. For example:

We will first skim through {a,b,c} points, then – a 10 minutes break, and after I will focus on {x,y,z} issues. For questions, we will have 15-minutes at the end of every chapter. However, if you want to clarify something during the presentation – feel free to ask me.

Follow up

The only certain way to run productive meetings is to handle as many as you can. The second conference or presentation will be much better than the first one, and so on. But to change, you need to note “dos and don’ts” for the future.

After 2-3 days after the meeting, share a short questionnaire and ask participants whether they liked the meeting and what improvements they might suggest. Include open questions and avoid general, broad statements without a rating scale. Compare 2 alternatives:

Example #1 

Did you like the meeting?

  • yes
  • no

Example #2

Did you like the meeting?

  • yes
  • no

If the previous answer is “Yes”, assess each aspect with a mark from 1 to 10, where 1 – didn’t like at all, 10 – was perfect:

  • a speaker’s comprehension of a topic
  • arguments that were provided
  • the overall meeting duration
  • board of participants
  • visuals.

A meeting is a working instrument – it’s neither an outstanding performance nor a tiresome getting together. Productive meetings are somewhere between an uncompromising checklist and a “space” – for new ideas and collaborative synergy.