How to run more efficient meetings

I used to think that I didn’t enjoy client meetings. I always felt that they were a waste of time and that I could achieve far more by simply communicating with clients over email. I included phone calls in my definition of meetings too by the way. I felt like email was a much more effective way of communicating as they contained everything that needed to be said and could be referred back to at any point in the future. But let’s be honest, no one reads emails. And just because you have a world-class folder structure in your Gmail doesn’t mean you client does. Email is also terrible for conveying nuance and as for brain-storming ideas? Forget it. So I would begrudgingly go along to meetings but always feel they were an inefficient drain on my time. And they were, because I didn’t know how to plan or structure them properly. But over time I learned how to run more efficient meetings.

It’s no real surprise I was bad at meetings as I was never taught how to run them, but I’m ashamed to say it took rather longer than it should have to start making meetings work for me. I think this was partly because I read something antagonistic about meetings being a waste of time. Anyway, if you’re crap at running meetings like I was I hope the following advice may be of some use to you.

Before the meeting

  • Decide on the finish time of the meeting as well as the start time
  • Decide on a few clear things (ideally less than five) you want to achieve in the meeting
  • Send a clear agenda to everyone who will be in attendance at least one day before the meeting
  • Ask for additions to the agenda when you send it. Resend the agenda to everyone if there are updates
  • State who will be leading the meeting when you send the agenda

At the meeting

  • Have a timekeeper who can move things along if needed. This will often be the meeting leader but not always.
  • Only write down the most important points. Record the meeting audio rather than trying to take copious hand-written notes. As a courtesy ask if anyone minds you doing this (they won’t).
  • End the meeting by agreeing on what the next steps for the project are and who is responsible.

After the meeting

  • Write up conclusions, questions that arose and next steps and email this to everyone who attended the meeting. Offer to send the meeting audio to anyone if they want it (they won’t).

So now you’ve leaned how to run more efficient meetings you’ll be amazed by how useful they can be. Good ideas will come up, questions will be answered, problems will be avoided and you will look like you really know what you’re doing. As long as there is a clear purpose and you stay on track meetings can be very worthwhile indeed.

Pete Clark

Pete Clark has been working with websites since the 1990s, which seems like a very very long time ago now. You can follow him on Twitter @ClarkCX