A company called Yoyo Meetings interviewed me about the secret to productive meetings. Here is a summary of our interview:
What are some tips on how attendees can prepare for a meeting to ensure a productive meeting?
The first tip is to check on the meeting agenda. If there is no agenda, there’s already a question about this meeting’s productivity. Each individual participant should know what to bring to the meeting. This can include thoughts and ideas, as well as deliverables like requested information, presentations or products. If the agenda does not mention bringing anything to the meeting, participants should view the topics listed and arrive with questions and thoughts related to those topics.
In addition to requesting the agenda, participants should make sure their calendars are marked for the meeting. This not only includes the meeting itself, but there should be some time blocked for personal preparation beforehand and debriefing time afterward. For onsite meetings, make sure to book commute time as well whether the meeting is down the hall or across town. For virtual meetings, allow for five to ten minutes prior for dealing with any technology hiccups.
What are some common meeting facilitation techniques that help create and foster more productive meetings?
Would it be acceptable if I reframe the question just a bit? Instead of techniques, let’s look at tips – tips that should be viewed more as “steps.”
Step 1 – Identify at least one specific objective for the meeting. If there is not an objective, there’s no need to have a meeting. Cancel it or reschedule it.
Step 2 – Prioritize the topics by level of urgency or importance. This ensures the most critical topics will be covered even if time runs out.
Step 3 – Distribute the meeting agenda a minimum of two business days prior. However, for important meetings that require more complex discussion or deliverables, consider sending the agenda even further in advance, as in a minimum of one week, but preferably two weeks.
Step 4 – Start the meeting on time. If you wait for people who are late to the meeting, you’re training all of the attendees that not only is it acceptable to be late, but nothing of consequence will be discussed until they get there, so why make the effort to show up on time?
If or when meetings get off track, what are some strategies to get your meeting back on track? How can this be avoided?
When it comes to productivity during meetings, it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive.
Plan for discussion time in your meeting by using time boxing. For each topic, the assignee or topic specialist will have a set amount of time to discuss the topic. This tactic helps move the meeting faster when there is a time constraint for each topic. Topics do not necessarily need to be assigned equal amounts of time. The amount of time allotted should be based on the levels of complexity and consensus.
The more you implement time boxing, the better you’ll become at estimating the amount of time needed for various topics. This will help with your meeting agenda planning and discussions moving forward.
State the Ground Rules
Meeting leaders and facilitators can be proactive by addressing expectations or standards related to meeting procedures. For example, explain how each topic will be given 10 minutes of discussion, so each attendee is requested to respond briefly in order to have time for others to share. Even more importantly, whatever expectation you set at the beginning of the meeting must be adhered to throughout the meeting. By doing this, it decreases the likelihood of getting off-track during meetings.
Provide Time Updates
During the meeting, the facilitator or leader should remind people about the amount of time for an agenda topic and assign a certain amount of time to each person who has the floor. Before the end of a time block, the facilitator can provide a 2-minute (choose the appropriate time mark) warning.
However, if and when meetings get off track, try this technique:
Pause to Make a Choice
If the group runs out of the allotted time, the group can decide to either continue discussing the topic or save it for a later meeting and move on to the other agenda items. The first time you do this, attendees will see that you’re serious about adhering to timelines, which will help reduce the number of discussions that derail a meeting.
If you or your team need assistance with facilitating more productive meetings, you have options!