How to Keep Meetings Productive

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Meetings are a part of every workplace and can come in a variety of styles, from formal reviews to casual brainstorms. No matter the situation, it is important that every meeting stays productive and nobody’s time is wasted.

Meetings can be ineffective if discussions get sidetracked, therefore it’s important to remember these five tips to ensure every meeting you’re a part of is clearly defined and rewarding for those who attend.

Set an Agenda

The last thing a co-worker needs is an unnecessary meeting, so make sure you set out an agenda they can read ahead of time and prepare for. Know what is going to be discussed and who will be speaking about each topic that you cover.

If any specific material is going to be discussed, make sure everyone can access it ahead of time by emailing it to them, attaching it to an Outlook invite, or saving it on a public drive. Your agenda should also be used once your meeting starts to keep things on track and ensure no points of discussion are forgotten.

Start On Time

Perhaps the simplest, but not the easiest, piece of advice is to make sure your meetings start on time. Late starts usually lead to late finishes, which can have a domino effect on the rest of the work you have scheduled.

Make the details of your meeting – the location, start time, and any additional information (such as login information for video calls) – clear as soon as possible, and send a reminder to all attendees closer to the time so they don’t forget. If you need to set anything up, such as presentation slides, try to do so before the meeting’s set start time so you can begin immediately.

Take Notes Throughout

Making notes reduces the need to repeat points that have already been discussed, as well as serving as a summary for people who are late, or unable to attend. Potential tangents and pieces of feedback can also be noted down and researched afterwards, preventing them from taking a conversation off-topic.

Try keeping a separate notebook of meeting agendas and notes to prevent them from being mixed with other work. Date and title everything clearly, and if you need to clarify what a co-worker mentioned or suggested, do so after the meeting has finished.

Save Ideas for Later Discussion

Creative brainstorms and discussions with designers can be more free-form in style and allow multiple people to contribute towards a brief, rather than following a set schedule. However, due to their informal nature, these meetings can often be sidetracked with ideas that, while interesting, don’t fit the brief you’re trying to meet.

Keep track of these ideas and save them for another time, though try to keep discussion of them contained. You don’t want to stifle creativity, and ideas could become useful in the future, but remember what you want to get out of your current meeting and don’t be afraid to steer conversation back towards your original guidelines.

Finish with Clear Next Steps

After your agenda has been covered, it is important that everyone attending knows what decisions have been made and what is expected of them afterwards. The last thing you want to do is organise another meeting to discuss the results of your previous one.

End things with a quick recap of what has been discussed and assign clear tasks that need to be completed. This can be done with a summary email typed up a few hours later, or by discussing things with co-workers individually.

How do you make sure your meetings are productive? Tell us on Twitter at @viking_chat.