After attending a great meeting, participants depart with renewed energy, a clear to-do list and a defined direction. But after going to a mediocre gathering, though, attendees will probably wonder if it was worth their time.
The good news: Many elements of a successful meeting can be readied ahead of time. Without this, though, mistakes are bound to happen. Here are four ways workplace meetings might come up short and what you can do to avoid them:
1. A lack of planning.
Great meetings rarely happen organically. Instead, they result from careful planning. Be sure to clearly define all objectives as well as create a detailed agenda. Room for spontaneous discussion is fine. But having an agenda will help ensure that you achieve your objectives in a timely manner.
Next, take the time to consider logistics like seating arrangements, power outlets and supplemental materials such as PowerPoint presentations or handouts. Develop a list of frequently required items and review it before each meeting.
When speakers are on the agenda, consider requesting their notes several days in advance. This arrangement will allow both of you to tweak any content as necessary and avoid unwanted surprises.
2. The absence of a designated facilitator.
If no one takes charge, meetings can easily run off track and waste time.
To avoid this, assign a leader who can reinforce the great ideas articulated at the meeting, reduce off-topic conversations, help further positive discussion and assign follow-up activities.
3. A failure to anticipate strong reactions.
Every so often, controversial topics must be discussed during a meeting. To sidestep potentially unpleasant reactions, hold a few one-on-ones with your most outspoken or influential team members to gauge likely responses.
Whether you all are on the same page, you’ll be able to better anticipate and prepare for questions and opinions that might otherwise catch you off guard.
4. Nonexistent follow-up.
Even the best meetings will prove worthless if no one takes notes or outlines follow-up tasks. To this end, designate an attendee (not the facilitator) to take minutes. Under the most ideal scenario, have him or her email a summary to all participants following the meeting.
While the notetaker is in charge of minutes, the facilitator should also jot down, as the discussion progresses, the tasks that need to be completed. By the meeting’s end, all to-dos, along with hard deadlines, should be assigned.
Finally, understand that even a good meeting can sometimes go off track. But these guidelines can help you keep such situations to a minimum.
Related: 5 Ways to Host Better Meetings