October 30, 2013 | 4 minutes

How to Run a Meeting

how to run a meetingNearly four hours per work week are spent in meetings and nearly half of U.S workers say that meetings are the top time-waster in the office. Of course, you may not be able to stop having meetings completely in your organization, but if your colleagues view those four hours as time that’s better spent elsewhere, then there’s room for improvement. If you need to have a meeting, then here are a few tips to running an efficient and productive meeting, whether it’s in person or virtual.

Have a Goal (or Several Goals)

For any meeting, have at least one goal that needs to be accomplished before the meeting ends. You, and everyone else attending, needs to know why this meeting is happening and what you hope to get done. This way, those attending can figure out what needs to be done make this goal a reality. If you’re having a short-term planning meeting, as an example, then the goal would be to come up with those plans and a few action steps for those plans. Anything that doesn’t have to do with these plans and action steps doesn’t need to be discussed. Having a goal also helps attendees do any necessary prep work prior to the meeting. This way, time isn’t wasted in the meeting for people to come up with ideas, to scramble for paperwork and information, or for people to catch up with what they need to know in order to contribute to the conversation.

Prepare Beforehand to Address the Little Things

This one goes for in-person meetings as well as virtual and phone meetings, as these little things can suck up a lot of time. For example, if you’re renting a meeting space, it’s best to check the room prior to the meeting to ensure that the room temperature will be pleasant for everyone. It seems small, but the room temperature becomes a huge time suck if people are uncomfortable, and then someone needs to take the time to figure out how to change it and what temperature would be best for everyone. For virtual and phone meetings, these little things would include making sure the technology works, eliminating distractions, and gathering your refreshments before the meeting starts. A meeting isn’t going to be productive or efficient if people are uncomfortable or if there are interruptions that ruin the flow of getting work done.

Include Everyone to Get Things Back on Track

Remember that goal? It’s natural for conversation to go on a tangent, or for someone to take over the meeting with an issue that’s not on the agenda. Those things happen. To get things back on track, keep the goal in mind and include everyone at the meeting. Instead of stopping the tangent or the rant directly:

“This isn’t on the agenda. We need to get back on track.”

Use an approach that’s more inclusive, such as:

“I see that this issue is very important to you. If everyone here agrees, perhaps we can save it for the end of the meeting or make it our top priority at our next meeting.”

The second approach sends the message that you’ve heard the other person, or that you’ve acknowledge that those issues that aren’t on the agenda are important. With this approach, you won’t waste time on topics besides the goal, but time can be dedicated to those other issues if everyone agrees.

Running a meeting is a necessary skill for any leader in any business. From time to time, meetings need to happen. Ensuring that the time is spent wisely and isn’t viewed as a waste by those who are attending is where the skill and tact come in.

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