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No matter what industry you are in, chances are you have a few meetings in your schedule. Budget meetings, marketing meetings, brainstorming meetings, fundraising meetings— the list goes on. We have all had to sit through bad meetings—the tedious, unproductive, seemingly endless ones—and thought, “There has to be a better way to do this.”


There is a better way.


Put an end to long, scattered conversations and institute rules for more efficient and effective meetings. Sometimes it is necessary to meet as a team to discuss a specific purpose, and with these guidelines you can make the most of your time.


5 Guidelines for Effective Meetings

1. Pick one organizer and facilitator.

Having too many cooks in the kitchen can slow you down. If you are the meeting facilitator, you are in charge of scheduling the time, drawing up a final agenda and inviting participants to the meeting. You will also act as an active facilitator during the meeting, ensuring that the team stays focused on the agenda at hand and stays within specified time limits.


2. Draw up an agenda and stick to it like glue. 

Nothing is worse than a meeting about new product ideas that becomes an off-track conversation about the office holiday party. As the facilitator, determine the purpose of the meeting and keep it as specific as possible. Email all participants a point-by-point agenda with time limits for each topic. Once the final agenda is sent out, try to avoid make any changes or additions.


During the meeting, it is your job to keep everyone focused on the purpose you outlined and bring participants back from any tangents. Be polite but firm when the conversation goes off topic, and ban or limit distractions such as cell phones and laptops.


3. Keep time.

Effective meetings have time constraints and are not allowed to run over. If you schedule an hour-long meeting, be sure that it lasts only one hour. Be respectful of your colleagues’ time, and give each item on the agenda exactly the number of minutes specified from the beginning. Remind team members when their time is running out on each topic.


4. Foster a culture of respect.  

Interrupting colleagues, playing the blame game and other disrespectful actions waste time and hurt productivity. Set a general set of “rules of play” for all meetings and call out those who violate them. Focus on using “I” statements (“I need to have an updated budget to move forward on this project” vs. “You haven’t given me a budget yet, which is why this isn’t done yet”) and letting one person speak at a time.


5. End with next steps.

Follow-through is the most important part of effective meetings, and it is sadly often neglected. Talking and brainstorming are fine, but action is far more valuable. At the end of the conversation, have each person say what his or her next steps will be and when they will be completed. Each task should have one owner who is responsible for seeing it to completion. If there are any unclaimed action steps, assign them now and clear up any confusion.


How do you increase productivity in meetings within your organization? Share your tips in the comments section.


Learn more about EDSI’s Leading with Credibility course.


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