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How To Make Meetings More Productive (Part 1)

05.02.19Katie Ertmer

This is the first in a two-part blog series about leading productive meetings. These tips are fueled by professional facilitator training and real-life meeting experiences.

Preparation reduces frustration

Are you confused by meeting invitations containing nothing more than a title? Have you ever walked out of a meeting wondering what you were there to accomplish? And, why are 90 percent of meetings 60 minutes long?

If these questions strike a chord, you’re not alone. That’s why I committed to lifelong learning about creating great meeting experiences for Filament team members and our clients.

Read on for tips to help give your meetings a makeover in this two-part series – because meetings should be productive, not painful.

Take time to prepare

Let’s face it: we’re all guilty of cutting corners on meeting preparation. Too often, we rapid-fire a meeting invite before we head out for lunch or when we have five seconds between hot projects.

Slowing down and taking time to think through the meeting purpose can make the overall process faster. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What topic(s) should be covered?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • Who should be involved, and what are their roles?
  • What information may the group need before meeting?

Spending five extra minutes to prepare before clicking send should save time in the long run. Don’t just take it from me. Simon Sinek says, “It is better to go slow in the right direction than to go fast in the wrong one.”

Plus, preparation helps you avoid that awkward five minutes at the beginning of the meeting where you stare at each other until someone takes charge.

Craft an agenda

There’s nothing like a clear agenda to kick-start productivity. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Simple bullet points work well to communicate your intent to meeting attendees.

Start by identifying the meeting topics and desired outcome(s) for each. Your desired outcome will fall into one of these four categories:

  1. Share information
  2. Generate or analyze data
  3. Make a decision
  4. Continuous improvement

You may have more than one desired outcome for each topic.

Next, think about how you’ll guide the group towards achieving the desired outcome(s). Check out part two for ideas to boost group engagement.

Finally, confirm that you have enough time for the group to achieve what’s laid out. One hour may not be the right time frame. Could you knock it out in 15 minutes with the right preparation? Would an extra 15 minutes eliminate the need for yet another meeting?

Consider work outside of meetings

A lot of progress can be made before and between meetings. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there action items the group could do beforehand to make the meeting more efficient?
  • Are the tasks better suited for independent progress or a collaborative work session?
  • Are action items clearly outlined at the end of the meeting? Have you identified who is responsible for each?
  • Does the group need to seek input from or share meeting results with other key stakeholders?

I hope you’ll use these tips next time you create a new meeting notice. It’s amazing how a little preparation can make meetings more productive and less painful.

Like this blog? Check out the second blog in this series here. You won’t want to miss these tips to facilitate more engaging meetings!

Strategic, productive meetings are our specialty. Let’s talk!

Katie Ertmer
Katie Ertmer