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Preparing an effective meeting

Why is it important to know how to focus on preparing an effective meeting?

Ask yourself: How many hours have you spent captive in pointless meetings thinking about the work you’re not getting done?

Considering the increasing amount of time managers devote to this activity, preparing an effective meeting becomes a critical component in keeping costs down and productivity up.

Below you will find information anyone who leads meetings should know about planning and running effective meetings that benefit all participants

The importance of preparing an effective meeting

Did you know that it is not uncommon for executives to spend upwards of 16 hours a week in meetings? Think of it!

Very often, the people sitting around the meeting table are your best and most highly compensated employees.

The cost of every unproductive meeting they attend is an enormous drain on both the human and financial resources of your company.

Couple that with the soft costs of your employees sitting through poorly run meetings—they’re annoyed, frustrated, and anxious to get back to the “real work” waiting for them—and it becomes evident why running effective, focused meetings is key to controlling costs, and keeping employees productive and satisfied.

The good news is that planning and running meetings that benefit both the presenter and the participants are skills that you can acquire.

Through training and practice, you can learn to lead meetings that inform, unite, and energize people, and keep everyone working towards the same common goals.

4 steps in preparing an effective meeting

So, what are the essential steps in preparing an effective meeting?

  1. Define a goal

The most important place to start when planning a meeting is to establish clear objectives.

2. Create an agenda.

Many meetings get sidetracked because the group goes off on a tangent and never really gets back on track.

3. Make a list of participants.

Once you decide who should attend the meeting, you can begin planning the level of detail and tone appropriate to the audience.

You may even want to assign some pre-meeting work at this point; for example, you might need someone to complete a survey, do some research, or put together some statistics.

When this supporting material is gathered before the meeting, you can get on the fastest track possible to achieving your goals.

4. Follow up with post-meeting tasks.

It is critical to do the appropriate follow-up after every meeting.

Meeting minutes need to be created and distributed to summarize meeting topics, and to remind participants of action items and deadlines.

Projects get slowed down or off track by people’s failure to react to the momentum of the meeting.

Involve all key employees

Companies have become much more aware of the value of involving not only managers but also the employees who perform jobs relevant to the topics to be covered in the meeting.

For example, if you have a problem at the front desk, why not include the receptionist, as well as the office manager, in the meeting?

As a meeting leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that these newcomers feel comfortable and that their ideas are well received at the meeting.

These employees may feel very uncomfortable in this type of setting, and it’s important that you clearly set the tone that what they have to say matters

Different meeting types: how to prepare

Meetings come in different types; they’re called for different purposes and to accomplish different goals.

There are routine, regularly scheduled meetings, and there are one-time meetings called to address a specific issue or respond to a crisis.

As a leader, are there differences in the way you should prepare for each type of meeting? The answer is no.

Many of us get into the trap of the weekly staff meeting, the daily VIP meeting, or the monthly ownership meeting: we don’t take the proper steps to prepare. As a result, the meetings lose shape over time, the participants become bored, and the purpose becomes hazy.

Remember the four basic steps of meeting preparation:

  • Establish a goal for the meeting.
  • Set an agenda
  • Assign meeting participants
  • Perform follow-up tasks.

To keep routine meetings interesting and motivating, you can vary the format.

  • Invite a special speaker; introduce an educational component;
  • arrange a hands-on activity
  • any technique to assure that all participants stay involved, interested, and focused on the goal.

Presentation tools and visual aids

How can meeting leaders use presentation tools like PowerPoint and other visual aids appropriately and effectively?

Used correctly, visual aids have a place in the meeting setting.

Different people have different learning styles: some are auditory learners, some focus on the text, and still, others absorb information better when it’s presented visually.

A slide presentation with graphs and charts, and even tangible, hands-on objects can help highlight the key points of a topic, provide a visual representation to accompany the text, and quickly bring to life a concept that may be difficult to describe.

Use these audio and visual tools only when it makes a difference.

Whatever you do, don’t simply read your slides; they should serve to summarize main points and provide supporting material for the discourse.

Will every meeting be effective?

Even the most well-prepared meeting, led by a confident, dynamic speaker can have a less-than-positive outcome.

On any given day, any given meeting can be a disappointment to some of the participants, given the human element.

A very successful group session on Tuesday could fail with the same group on Thursday due to any number of factors.

The likelihood of this occurring, however, decreases when both the presenter and participants are prepared.

Think about what you want to achieve in or take away from the meeting, and make a checklist.

When the meeting occurs, actively participate to keep it on track and make sure all your issues and/or questions are covered to your satisfaction.

Want to learn more about the subject? See also the other 2 articles: How to prepare an effective business meeting. and ” How to lead effective team meetings”