Tuesday 11am. You receive a meeting request for today at 3pm with no further explanation, only the subject: ‘Review of Increment 3’ and the list of required attendees. You are required but you have no idea of what’s going to be about. What do you do? Well, you just accept the invite.
- Communicate the purpose: It doesn’t matter whether you include the purpose of the meeting in the email invite or you just dedicate 5 minutes to talk to the attendees about what’s going to be about. What’s important is to convey the goal you want to reach during that meeting.
- Interest: The responsibility of having a productive meeting is not only the organizer’s but also the attendees’. If you receive a meeting request and you have no idea what it is about, ask!
Tuesday 3.05pm. You run from one meeting to another so you get to the room late and almost everyone’s already there. The organizer has already explained the purpose of the meeting so she has to go over it again. After a couple of minutes explaining the goals, someone from Marketing asks about details of one specific topic which strongly relates to his interests. Suddenly, someone else opens the door and joins the meeting. You spend half an hour discussing about the question raised by the marketer so you decide to check your emails on your phone. You even reply to one of them and when your mind comes back to the meeting, you notice you don’t know what they’ve been discussing and you have only 2 minutes left. Someone knocks the door and says they have a meeting in the same room room. Everyone starts picking up their things and leaving. You hear some comments like: ‘ We have to follow up on this’ and ‘Let’s meet again to cover what we didn’t’.
- Agenda: Define which topics you want to cover. Focus on talking about all of them and don’t let the discussion get off track. If one particular topics takes more time than expected, advise the others and assess if you should keep discussing about it or move to the next one.
- Time control: Allow people to arrive 3-4 minutes late. Start by setting up the computer or introducing the agenda but don’t cover strategic topics in the first 5 minutes. Try to define time expectations for each topic and if you spend longer than that, raise the point and see if people agree on move on or dedicate more time in expense on another. Check when only 5 minutes are left to the end of the meeting and close up with conclusions and actions.
Tuesday 6.08pm. You are about to leave the office after your last meeting but decide first to check your emails. After two or three emails about different topics, you see a meeting invite that says: ‘Review for increment 3’. Nothing else. You wonder if you should attend as the first one was useless but you finally accept the invite. Then, you go home.
- Meeting notes: Someone (usually the organizer) should take notes during the meeting or capture them afterwards, and send them to people summarized. This way people are aligned on the outcomes of the meeting.
- Next steps: During the last five minutes of a meeting, you should discuss about next steps and actions. They should be clearly addressed to specific people so you can easily follow up if those are taken.
To sum up, these are 6 suggestions to improve your meetings. There are many more but it’s better to focus on few things to change rather than trying to cover many. So go to your next meeting with these tips in mind and remember that having a productive meeting is not a task only of the organizer but everyone’s.