Even with time-saving videoconference software, meetings still eat up hours. Here’s a handful of tips to make your online meetings more productive — and more enjoyable.
Try this during your next meeting. In your head, do a quick estimate of the hourly rate of pay for each participant then add up the dollars. The total cost of a meeting can add up to hundreds or even thousands.
That’s quite an investment. So keep this list handy to make sure your meeting investment pays off.
Someone (probably you) needs to figure out in advance the purpose of the meeting, what information should be available, and what needs to be accomplished.
It’s helpful to ask participants to recommend agenda topics. Then decide whether their topic fits within the meeting’s overall subject, goals and time limit. This also helps keep you from being caught off-guard.
2. Control the time
Based on your agenda, you may be able to estimate the time required for each agenda item. Sticking to a schedule demonstrates that you respect the participants’ time.
Oh sure, some items can take longer than you expect (and the discussion may be very worthwhile.) So plan flex-time for discussion and Q&A.
3. Train your participants
If every meeting starts late, you’re training people to show up late for future meetings. Likewise, if you allow an off-topic discussion to sidetrack the meeting, it’s a signal that any member can push their own agenda.
One of the greatest time-savers is to state the ending time of the meeting in advance — then stick to it. This trains participants to stay focused and encourages everyone to adhere to the agenda.
4. Stop arguments
People should feel free to disagree . . . the right way.
The wrong way is to argue relentlessly, with each side determined to convince everyone that they are right and the other is wrong.
A better way is to allow time for each side to articulate their point of view briefly and clearly. Then let the participants make up their own mind.
I know what you’re thinking — it’s not as easy as I make it sound. You’re right, but give it a try anyway.
5. Encourage participation
No one — not even the chairperson — should do all the talking. So don’t be afraid to address someone by name and ask their opinion.
And if someone cuts off another speaker, be sure to circle back to the original speaker and ask them to complete their thought. Your act of courtesy may encourage others to speak up too.
6. Evaluate ideas
Can an unpopular person come up with a good idea? Sure, just as a popular person can come up with a bad idea.
It’s human nature to consider the source. A president’s idea is considered more fully than a clerk’s. But watch for good ideas from unlikely sources. And make it your mission to have them fully explored.
7. Create a clear future
During discussions, keep track of those who make commitments. Then at the end of the meeting, summarize the action points with reminders of responsibilities and time frames.
Remember that the objective is more than just to have a good meeting. The real goals are to clarify objectives, agree upon methods, and create accountability.
The bottom line
Ideally, every participant should get something of value from every meeting. And something should emerge that makes the organization just a little bit better.
It’s surprisingly difficult to accomplish both. But if that is your consistent intention, you’re bound to run better meetings.
Stuck? Pop your question into the comments below. We’ll be glad to “crowd source” an answer from our longtime customers and in-house experts.