Make Your Meetings Matter


Shortly before I left my previous job in April, I was sitting in a meeting when the host explained “this is the meeting before the meeting before the meeting,” and I couldn’t help but make a wise crack about it… after all, I had one foot out the door.  I had spent the past three years in a meeting-crazed environment (it was the culture of the organization) and I had seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The video below is greatness (the barking dog is my favorite).  If your boss catches you on YouTube, just remember this is “career development.”

Here are 8 tips to improve the productivity of your meetings, and hopefully avoid some of the snafus you witnessed above:

Tip 1: Please, please (I am begging you) have an agenda.  Better yet, distribute the agenda before the meeting so folks can adequately prepare.  Also, stick to the agenda topics and timeframes.

Tip 2: Prioritize what you really need to meet about.  Sometimes we were on meeting overload and I found myself not wanting to burden my staff by scheduling additional meetings.  However, meeting with them about projects, performance, etc. should have been my priority.

Tip 3: Evaluate who really needs to be there.  Invite the key players and provide a brief overview to the rest of the team after the meeting (or include them in your email recap mentioned in Tip 8).

Tip 4: Start the meeting on time.  Arriving late is disrespectful of other peoples’ time.  If someone shows up late, they will quickly learn the lesson that you are punctual and your meetings begin promptly.

Tip 5: The meeting shouldn’t be all about you.  Allow time for questions, comments, input, etc. and share the floor.

Tip 6: In most cases, the shorter the meeting, the better.  One of my performance elements was having routine “5-minute meetings” with my staff.  This requires preparation by both parties, but it can result in efficiency and results.  This is a skill I am still fine tuning, so if you have any input, I would be happy to hear it in the comments section.

Tip 7: Remember to acknowledge success!  We tend to meet as a reactionary measure when there is a fire to put out.  The more we do this, the more fires there seem to be.  It’s important for morale to take some time to recognize achievements and not just dwell on the work that needs to be done.  Also, a success story can be a great “lesson learned” that can be applied down the road in similar situations.

Tip 8: Email a recap of the meeting and include action items and deadlines to ensure accountability and follow-through.  This can be a great tool when you are making your next agenda.

What other advice do you have to make a meeting successful?  Or if you want to give us all a chuckle, tell us your funniest meeting story.

Nicole Willingham is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Great article. Thank you! I would add one thing: give people a few minutes to be human. I’ve attended too many meetings where people are not given even 1-2 minutes at the start to say hello or do a check-in with one another. We’re human. Let us have human interaction. If you can’t spare 1-2 minutes on your agenda to do this, then your agenda is unrealistic.

Amy DeWolf

Great tips! And I love that video- it’s almost too relatable. Preparation is key for a successful meeting! For both the leader of the meeting and the attendees. If people comes prepared with questions, ideas, concerns etc it makes the meeting that much more effective.

Matthew Garlipp

Hilarious video! Conference calls have obvious benefits such as scheduling and location flexibility, BUT I agree, it’s definitely important to pre-plan and structure your meetings so they are efficient as possible – and avoid some of these common mishaps… Great post!