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Meetings, we all have them, but how effective are these meetings? Are we just wasting our time listening to team members get distracted and off topic? Are we failing to hit project deadlines, discuss important strategies, or reach the decisions needed to move our organization forward? Having endured many meetings that have been productive as well as meetings that have been a complete waste of time, here are a few thoughts on ways to increase your chances of running a productive meeting:

1 – Make an agenda. Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish during the meeting as well as how much time you will spend and stick to it. Make sure everyone either has a copy or a way to reference it during the meeting so you can bring everyone back to topic if needed. If you don’t accomplish what you set out to and your allotted time is up, end the meeting and schedule another time to complete the remaining agenda items. People tend to lose focus when they anticipate getting “back to work” and will be more engaged if you reschedule.

2 – Give assignments. True to human nature, when an individual doesn’t have a reason to be engaged, they won’t be. But don’t just assign tasks for busy work. Make the task meaningful and truly value the input of each team member. Don’t forget to set deadlines for each assignment. If the assignment isn’t completed on time, don’t meet again until the task(s) is/are complete.

3 – Make sure someone is taking notes. There are a number of reasons why I think this is so important. First of all, taking notes helps you keep track of your agenda from meeting to meeting including assignments given. Often times you will either have to “table” a topic that comes up, or you fail to address all of the items on your agenda because you spend too much time on one of the other topics. Having notes will help you know what items still need to focused on in the next meeting. You will also be able to tell what items are “pain points” and need further discussion, what items seem to be key to the success of your team/goals/company etc., and whether or not you are going to run into budget concerns due to scope creep (in the case of running a project and budget). All of these things (and I’m sure there are many others that I haven’t listed) may end up being critical to your organization/team and without proper documentation you will lose the effectiveness of your meetings. It can also be helpful to have notes to refer back to if you know you have discussed a particular topic and can’t remember the details.

In my experience, meetings never go quite as planned, but by following a few simple guidelines I think you will find the effectiveness of your meeting time to be greatly enhanced. If your meetings haven’t included the ideas mentioned I recommend you give them a try! It may take some communication up front to get your team onboard with these changes, but I think it will be worth it.

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