effective meetings

By Alexa Garthwaite

Meetings are an unavoidable part of business.

Every company, from the smallest start-up to the largest corporate giant, has to hold them.

Sometimes, these are productive – participants come up with new ideas, make bold decisions, and leave with a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

However, all too often, meetings drag on unnecessarily with uninspired discussion and few conclusions reached.

The key to accomplishing more in your meetings starts with smart planning and setting a few guidelines. They can mean the difference between an effective meeting — and one that falls flat.

The Face-to-Face

  1. Write a list of things to be accomplished. Have it visible to everyone in the room. Keep the agenda short and make sure each item is completed (with action items!) by the end of the session. If you can’t come up with any solid decisions that need to be made, cancel the meeting.
  2. Keep to time. Make sure there’s a clock in the room and assign time limits to each point on your to-do list. Having time constraints instills a sense of urgency in the participants and often means the meeting is more productive.
  3. Draw up actionable steps for everyone to take away. All too often, people leave meetings feeling like they’ve wasted an hour of their time. Ensure everyone has something to do as a result of the meeting and ask them to recount it at the end.
  4. Ban electronic devices for taking notes, apart from the person taking minutes. Having a screen to hide behind can diminish a person’s engagement with the group and prove distracting. Make sure everyone abides by this rule by warning the participants in advance and provide paper and pens for them to use.

Now, these are all really useful tips for hosting an effective traditional boardroom-style meeting. However, if you’re feeling brave, consider holding a different type of meeting altogether – the walking meeting.

Get Outside – and Walk

Walking meetings have seen a recent growth in popularity. Held outside, typically in parks or other quiet open spaces, they can be a good way to bring energy to an important discussion.

  1. Keep the group small. Have no more than six participants so everyone can be heard clearly.
  2. Choose a quiet location. Ensure that there will be few distractions along your route, and it will be quiet enough for people to talk without raising their voices.
  3. Remind them of the need for sensible shoes and clothing – people should be concentrating on the conversation, not on their aching feet.

The Virtual Meeting

(Editor’s note: They are a favorite for us here at Arment Dietrich!)

Hailed as the future of meetings, they have their own unique challenges.

  1. Mute your microphone if you’re not speaking. Failing to do this can lead to a distracting level of background noise for the other participants – even breathing can sound thunderously loud in a virtual meeting.
  2. Check your technology beforehand. Someone almost always discovers a problem with their microphone or camera. Ask people to check that their equipment is working before the meeting.
  3. Use IM. Most video-chat programs have an instant messaging feature. If someone’s microphone isn’t working, ask them to type their contributions. It’s far better to do this than reschedule the meeting for another time – as everyone knows, finding a mutually convenient time is often difficult.

Make Some Waves

Shake things up at your next meeting. Send an email round in advance to inform participants of the changes – especially if you’re banning electronic gadgets. Do something radically different – if you usually have sit-down discussions, hold a walking meeting. Follow the above steps to get more out of your employees, and hold more productive, effective meetings.

What are your tips for getting things done in meetings? Any effective meeting advice you can offer?

Alexa Garthwaite

Alexa Garthwaite is the head of marketing at Executive Offices Group, which provides serviced offices, virtual offices, and meeting room hires in prestigious locations across London. She has a deep interest in marketing, SMEs, business, property, and travel. You can follow her on Twitter @alexagarthwaite.

View all posts by Alexa Garthwaite