The Anatomy of An Effective Meeting Part 1: How To Design a Meeting

How to run an effective meeting, ramp up productivity, and optimize your time

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Do you find meetings to be unpopular and a waste of time? Let’s change that.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Have an agenda: Every meeting should have a clear purpose and topics points to be covered
  • Hold an asynchronous meeting when possible: Have people work independently on the same project (say on a shared Google doc, or Slack thread)
  • Invite the right people: Ever look around a meeting and wonder why you're there?
  • Be an active participant: Give verbal and non-verbal communication to create an engaging meeting for everyone at the table
  • It’s OK to say no: Normalize saying no to meetings if you don't see a purpose or the organizer doesn't have an agenda

This is the first part of our 3-part series on “The Anatomy of An Effective Meeting.” Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Are you tired of sitting in back-to-back meetings? Do you end the day wondering, “did I even do anything today”? As we head into the second year of remote work, you’re likely experiencing some degree of Zoom fatigue and beginning to question how to hold an effective meeting.

Given the amount of time we are spending on video-conferences, it pays to be conscious of how we conduct ourselves and optimize our time, especially when sitting in meetings.

If you’re looking for a better way to navigate the meetings in your company, we’ve got this 3-piece series on How to have effective meetings.”

In today’s edition, we will talk about the anatomy of an effective meeting.

Can you identify what makes for a great meeting at work? With intentional planning and thought, we can set the tone within our companies to have better, more productive meetings. Let’s discuss a few components that make for an effective meeting.

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Tip 1: Have an agenda to make the meeting effective

Every effective meeting should have an agenda early in the onset. This informs people on whether or not they need to join, and allows those who are joining to come prepared. When creating an agenda, consider the following points:

Oftentimes, people meet only to realize their meeting could have been quickly covered in an email or Slack message.

What is your meeting purpose? Oftentimes, people meet only to realize their meeting could have been quickly covered in an email or Slack message. Thinking through your meeting purpose will help you eliminate those instances.

Ask yourself: “What do I and the meeting participants need to accomplish in this meeting for it to be successful?”

What topics do I need to cover? When creating your topic points, seek input from the meeting participants as well to make the conversation more collaborative.

Ask yourself and those invited into the meeting: “What topics or items need to be addressed for this meeting to be productive?

Once you’ve got this covered, make sure to send out the meeting agenda well in advance so your employees can prepare.

Tip 2: Hold an asynchronous meeting when possible

An asynchronous meeting is a “discussion about a specific topic that happens asynchronously (not in real-time)”. Not having meetings tied to a specific time slot make discussion and decision making easier for group members who work in different time zones or have varying schedules.

Examples of asynchronous meetings include:

  • Sending out a Google Doc with work to review, questions, or topics, and having everyone leave their comments on their own time.
  • Sending out a video recording of you sharing information to the team and asking them for their thoughts in a Slack thread.

This form of communication is great for editing, sharing news and information, and working collaboratively on an ongoing project. It saves people from Zoom fatigue and allows people the chance to participate effectively, wherever they located.

Tip 3: Invite the right people

Have you been invited to a meeting and thought “Why on earth am I here?”. As a meeting planner it’s important to think about who you are inviting into your meeting. What skills and resources are required to reach a decision? Based on this, you can invite the right people.

Have you been invited to a meeting and thought “Why on earth am I here?”

Remember that the size of your meeting matters. For example, if you’re looking to brainstorm, then having a large group of people on your call may be useful. If you’re trying to reach a decision, keeping the group smaller may be easier.

Allow people the option to skip meetings if they feel they won’t be effective. If you invite someone into a meeting and they don’t feel they are the right person, allow them to skip out, and ask who you should invite in their place.

Tip 4: Be an active participant

If you’re invited into a meeting, come prepared by reading the agenda notes, catching up from last week’s meeting, and showing up on time. A big part of being an active participant means mitigating your distractions. Turn phones on silent and email notifications off.

Active participation also means showing engagement by asking questions, giving verbal and nonverbal feedback (like nodding, smiling, or giving a thumbs up!), and showing your face on camera whenever possible.

While this can be hard as we’re all working from home, show compassion for yourself and those in your meetings. For example, if you happen to catch a glimpse of the handyman or your colleague’s family in the background.

Tip 5: It’s OK to say no

Sometimes, the best meeting is no meeting at all. If you don’t see a purpose of being at the meeting, the organizer does not create an agenda, or someone from your team is already present and representing your group, there may be no need for you to attend the meeting at all. Normalize saying no. With Zoom fatigue on the rise, it’s important we are conscious about how we protect our time and energy.

Stay tuned for next week’s article as we head into the second part of this series and discuss why psychological safety in meetings is so important and what you can do to create it.

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