One of the biggest challenges in the workplace is maximizing time during meetings and to make them as valuable as possible. A productive meeting is one in which all parties walk away having the feeling that they have accomplished something and that the hour or more out of their day was not a total waste of time – a feeling that many young professionals are all too familiar with.
Here’s how to make the most out of your meetings…
Don’t call it a “meeting”
Avoid the idea that it’s a task. Take advantage of the change of scenery from the office, even if it’s just in the boardroom down the hall. Alternatively, arrange to meet at a new restaurant or coffee house you have been dying to try – just make sure you make a reservation as precious time can be lost waiting for a table. Don’t spend the entire time talking business; take time to engage with the people you are meeting with on a personal level.
Arrange a stimulating/engaging meeting spot:
Choose a place of meeting that facilitates forward thinking and is filled with positive energy. Avoid meeting at a neighbourhood Starbucks that is frequented by conversing stay-at-home moms and their screaming children. Pick a place frequented by other professionals who are there for the same purpose as you. Depending on the nature of the meeting, you may also want to avoid a setting that facilitates a more casual mindset (and perhaps a pint) like a sports bar. Avoid venues with messy foods that are distracting and require focus like lobster houses. To save time, avoid places with extensive and overwhelming menus that take half an hour to get through.
Stay focused and on point
It is easy to get sidetracked with things like catching up with clients you haven’t seen in awhile, or going off into tangents or brainstorming sessions that end up far removed from the topic at hand. Know the key messages that you would like to communicate and the pieces of information that you would like to take away from the meeting. Arrive with a timed schedule and a list of tasks; be open to external topics but stay on point. At the start of the meeting, make sure everyone is in agreement as to what time it should end, including the servers if you are at a restaurant and on a tight deadline.
Speak/present ideas one at a time
This idea is one we learned back in kindergarten when we were taught to raise our hand before answering a question, yet so much time is constantly wasted with overlapping dialogue, ideas and comments. After pleasantries and a few moments of necessary chit chat, if you are the one hosting the meeting or have taken the initiative to lead it, start by addressing the other people or person by smiling and asking “so, who wants to go first?” Each party should have everyone’s full attention in order to ensure key points are communicated.
Keep others engaged.
Don’t go into a meeting with a list of points or pieces of information that you are going to speak to your peers as though you are a professor giving a lecture. Unlike a presentation, a meeting is a facilitator for two-way communication and active dialogue. Ask your peers if they have any questions, keep your tone conversational and inviting, and look each person in the eye when speaking to them.
Send an email detailing an overview of the meeting, the next steps of action discussed and when a follow-up meeting will be held. Thank the other parties again for their time and either hosting or attending the meeting.