5 Rules for Effective Meetings

Meetings have been a big topic lately. It seems like everyone is trying to figure how to have less of them so that people have time to focus on the actual work.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Just survived another meeting that should have been an email…” come across my social media feed.

What is actually happening is that many people have no idea how to run an effective meeting so most meetings end up being a waste of time going through items and updates that should have been shared and reviewed ahead of time.

When you’re managing projects with clients, they will respect you more if you can maximize the use of their time and yours. In order to do this, you need effective project management systems that leverage meetings as one method to drive work forward but not the only method.

With that said, check-in meetings are crucial to ensuring everyone is on the same page as projects move forward. For a short project this may be just a kick-off call and then a call to talk through draft / final deliverables. For a longer project you might want to have one each week so that you have a regular touchpoint. This allows you to consolidate everything and address it at the meeting instead of sending several emails with questions throughout the week.

Here are my 5 rules for effective meetings:

  1. Come prepared with an agenda. This is what will set you apart and demonstrate how organized you are. It will also help you keep all of your ducks in a row as you’re working by consolidating questions, updates, etc. as you go. I love using Google docs (or another shared doc system) for these because then it can be a living document that everyone can add to in between meetings, so you’ll have a comprehensive list of what needs to be covered.
  2. Use the meetings for things that need actual discussion. Send your agenda ahead of time, along with anything that needs to be reviewed prior to the meeting. Indicate things that are just updates, questions that could be addressed in writing, and things that need to be discussed. That way, you can use the meeting for the items that actually need discussion instead of having to run through updates that could have been communicated in writing.
  3. Start off by being a human talking with other humans. I often fall into the trap of jumping right into my agenda because there is so much to get done. Always start your meetings by checking in on how people are doing before covering the work. 1) this is the right thing to do and 2) this helps you build your relationship with clients so that they think of you as part of their team and not just a one-off contractor.
  4. Take notes during the meeting. You don’t need to keep a word-for-word record of each meeting, but you should take brief notes as you’re going through items, especially when it comes to decisions made and next steps. If things are questioned down the line, you’ll always have a record of what decisions we made, by who, and what was supposed to be accomplished by when.
  5. Wrap up with next steps. Summarize the end of your meeting with next steps (and deadlines) for yourself and anyone else involved.
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