Far be it for me to pretend that I am the only one who knows how to run a meeting. That being said, I have experienced the sense of pain, annoyance, frustration and “please let this torture end,” or “I will never get this hour back” moments because of poorly-run meetings.
There are a few essential prepping components that can really bring a sense of ease and feeling of accomplishment. I am sharing what works best for me and hopefully will help you too!
- Getting that all-important-meeting scheduled (or even that really boring status meeting): If you don’t have a shared company-calendar or a way to see everyone’s availability there are several apps and tools available outside of emailing “what’s your availability.” Zapier has a great article on scheduling sites and apps for a few different options. I personally use Sunrise for my calendar and have used Doodle before for scheduling. Sunrise was a find from my boyfriend and a colleague – apparently “everyone knows about this app” and it just reminds me that sometimes I am the last one to the party.
- Who should be invited? This is very important and believe me, I have made several mistakes when it comes to the attendee list. For example, one time I acquired the availability with the client and internal teams, had my agenda painstakingly prepared (can be painful on light-coffee days) and guess whom I forget to invite? The client. Made for an interesting moment of heavy blushing and a giant *facepalm.* Thankfully it wasn’t a major meeting, but in my opinion it is more critical to make sure to have everyone included; forgetting someone is more of an issue than inviting someone who doesn’t need to be there. YET, (caps for emphasis), it’s always a good idea to ask before the meeting, “do you need to attend,” or “does Stacy need to be there,” or “would having someone from UX here help make the meeting more productive?” Always nice to avoid people trekking to an unnecessary meeting.
- Format and Materials! Would a telecon, webex or in-person meeting be best? In-person is always preferred. Even in the world of Google Hangouts, Webex and GoTo Meetings there is nothing better than having all of the attendees in a room together. Unfortunately/fortunately we are in a global world and time travel and super sonic jets (with limited airport time and cost-effectiveness) are still a thing of the future so here is where judgement calls are in play. Consider what you are discussing – are you presenting something? If yes, it’s recommended you send out the material via DropBox or email in case there is a technical difficulty and then fire-up that shared-video. This will allow for everyone to keep clear on what is being reviewed and most closely mirror the real-life scenario.
- Agenda & Expected Output. Have a plan. Execute this plan. Pivot as needed based on the direction of the call but align yourself and the meeting as closely as possible to an actionable plan. Nothing like spending an hour in a room with a bunch of VIPs and having no next step. Don’t let this happen to you and your colleagues. In the invite you should include the reason for the meeting and what the goal of the meeting is. This can be a few bullets and even some roles & responsibilities thrown-in. Heck, you can even give everyone a little homework to prep the meeting. Don’t just make your title your agenda; it doesn’t work.
- Bring Copies. Yes, of everything you may need. Nothing impresses people more than someone referencing that one clinical paper, that contact report, that PowerPoint deck and you magically have it available. A spare copy to share never hurt anyone. In fact, it totally helps (valley girl accent applied).
- Introductions. If everyone knows each other well then don’t do this (duh). Probably more often than not there will be one or two new people in the meeting and you should act as if you are hosting the party at your house, but maybe leave out the personal aspects. No one needs to know that Jason loves dogs or that Shelley is a big fan of NCIS but maybe just their names and title would be helpful.
- Take notes. Yes you too. Yes, you. Oh someone in the room is already designated to take note? Who cares?! If you are in the room you should be taking notes on critical items, especially those that will have a direct impact on your job. A personal pet peeve of mine is Note-Taking Co-Dependence. It’s an affliction of the lazy. Unless you are standing and presenting the content there isn’t a good excuse. Notes can include sketching, tables, scribbles – whatever makes it easier for you to remember the key components from the meeting.