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11 Tips for More Effective Meetings

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Love them or hate them; meetings are a big part of your day. These helpful tips will keep your meeting from veering off track and into time-wasting territory.  

How would you describe your last meeting?

Was it productive, a time waste, a useful brain storming session? As you probably could guess, the number of meetings in the average organization is on the rise. According to the National Statistics Council, 37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings. Additional data from the University of Arizona shows that 11 million business meetings are held every day in the United States. A complaint about meetings, both in-person and via conference calls, is that they waste valuable time and reduce overall productivity. On the positive side, meetings encourage collaboration and can be the most effective means for sharing vital information.

Unified communications (UC) solutions provide a rich set of features for making meetings go smoothly. Technology, combined with a few simple dos and don’ts can ensure that you lead a productive meeting that all attendees will find valuable.

Send an agenda at least two hours prior to the meeting.
The number one reason for a poor meeting is lack of agenda. Your agenda should outline topics to be covered, goals, required attendees, materials needed, and start and stop time.

Adopt web or video conferencing technology.
Seeing and hearing attendees and materials will keep people more engaged. Even if you don’t have materials to share, post the agenda as a visual reminder of the meeting activities. Conferencing tools such as from ShoreTel also provide an easy, nondisruptive means for attendees to queue for questions.

Create invite list.
For standing meetings create an alias so that you will not leave anyone off the invite. You can easily email or IM missing attendees and follow up with meeting notes or requested materials.

Start the meeting on time.
Waiting for late attendees punishes those who arrived on time. If at all possible don’t delay the start more than a few minutes. Latecomers can review the notes or transcription of what they missed.

Introduce attendees and their roles.
As the meeting leader, you can let everyone know who is in attendance or you can let attendees introduce themselves with a short overview of their roles and responsibilities.

Shut down other apps and electronic devices.
Email, IM, and the Internet are distracting. Request that attendees do not use their mobile devices or other apps during the conference call. As leader, especially if you are sharing your desktop, close other applications. You don’t want the group to see your incoming or recent communications.

Guide the discussions.
When the conversations stray off topic or move beyond the meeting agenda, bring the discussion back and table the point for future discussion. Being overly polite to people who hijack a meeting will ruin productivity.

Be conscious of time.
Mark the midway point and 10 minutes prior to the end of the meeting. This will help move the meeting back on track and remind attendees of what still needs to be accomplished.

Summarize meeting at the end.
Identify if the goals were achieved, mark action items and tasks, define next steps and the point people who own the action items.

Take and distribute the meeting notes.
During the call take notes and within 24 hours, summarize and distribute them to all attendees. Some conferencing solutions allow you to record the meeting and transcribe it. Send that link in addition to your meeting notes.

Let attendees grade the meetings.
You can set up a simple survey through your UC tools or online sites such as SurveyMonkey. Ask three to five short questions about efficiency, productivity, focus duration, and so on. Use this feedback to improve future meetings.

Your meetings are a reflection of your leadership skills. The work you do creating the agenda, summarizing the notes, and sending follow-up emails shows people that you are invested in the meeting’s success. And, directing the conversations and intervening when necessary is a talent everyone appreciates. All these skills factor into making your meetings consequential and ensuring that the ideas and plans discussed produce concrete results.

Learn more about ShoreTel’s unified communications and conferencing solutions.