4 Ways to Make Your Next Meeting a Better Use of Everyone’s Time

Have you ever been in a meeting that was simply mind-numbingly boring? Or worse, have you ever led a meeting that you were sure everyone else felt was mind-numbingly boring? Following are four ways to make better use of everyone’s time during your next meeting:

  1. Be sure to have an overall goal (and be sure everyone attending knows that goal). When people attend your meeting(s), they’re taking time out of their schedules (and their lives) to be with you. If your meeting is 60 minutes long, make sure everyone in attendance knows what “success” for your meeting will look like at the end of the 60 minutes you’ve spent together. One example could be: “At 10am, when we walk out the door, we will have identified the primary benefit of our new customer relations software for each division in the company.”

Identifying the overall goal is essential even for regular team meetings, since that primary goal will probably change from week to week. When a primary goal isn’t clearly articulated, everyone is left to assume they know the purpose of the meeting. Is the meeting simply for information sharing (and if so, why is it important that everyone pay attention; what’s the value in sharing the information)? Is the meeting to brainstorm? Is the meeting to prepare for and align on another (bigger, more important) meeting?

  1. Have an agenda. An agenda provides much-needed structure to the meeting. A detailed agenda can lend a helping hand to meeting efficiency by making sure everyone in attendance is clear on what will be covered, who will cover it, how much time will be allocated for each topic and what is expected from everyone else. Click here for a sample. Added bonus: sending your agenda out at least 48 business hours in advance (ie: don’t send it on a Friday and expect people to prepare for a Monday morning meeting) helps all attendees prepare for what will be expected of them and it demonstrates to your attendees that you’ve put some time and thought into the meeting. Click here for a blank meeting agenda template.
  2. Set some M/P/V goals. I was introduced to this concept about a year ago and it has done wonders for how much I can get out of meetings – both 1:1 meetings as well as meetings with small and large groups. M/P/V stands for:
  • Minimum: What’s the very least that should come out of any given meeting topic?
  • Primary: What’s the expected outcome of any given topic?
  • Visionary: If you were given one wish, what would you wish could come from any given topic?

For example, if I’m meeting with a client with whom I haven’t spoken with in quite some time, my M/P/V goal for this meeting might look like this:

  • M: Re-engage with David in order to remind him that we exist and have done some good work together in the past.
  • P: Begin discussions on working with David on a new project at some point in the next six months.
  • V: Sign a new contract to begin working with David on a current project.

M/P/V goals can (and should) also be set for each topic of recurring meetings like team and staff meetings. Perhaps an “M” goal should always be: Ensure my attendees aren’t mind-numbingly bored!

  1. Have a presentation plan for anything that is not merely informational. Your presentation plan may simply be a few bullet-pointed notes on the back of a napkin or, if you really want to be a meeting pro and have a high degree of engagement, you could use a more formal presentation plan (click here for a sample presentation plan).

The key to better engagement during meetings is to be intentional about how you plan to engage your meeting attendees. If you need some help organizing your thoughts, click here for a blank meeting presentation plan template.

Each of these four suggestions take time (some steps take a lot more time than others). Taking some time to be intentional about the way you go about your meetings can make the actual time spent in the meeting more valuable for everyone involved.

Looking for some ideas about what good interaction during a meeting could look like? Try this previous post:

Know of someone else who’d like to get some ideas on how better to use everyone’s time during a meeting? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills then you should probably follow this blog.

3 thoughts on “4 Ways to Make Your Next Meeting a Better Use of Everyone’s Time

  1. In all honesty, very rarely have I been in a meeting that couldn’t have been handled better with a concentrated email string… MANY, even if they follow the above steps are called so people can have “facetime” However, following your outline allows us to keep people on task, and I like that!

    • Thanks Tony – your comments help me know that there’s someone out there reading!

      I couldn’t agree more about many meetings being more about facetime than anything else. I work with a dispersed team – some in Seattle, some in India, and when we have a rare opportunity to get together in person, the facetime is invaluable.

      The thing about facetime is that I think it’s a “minimum” level goal (along with “attendees shouldn’t be mind-numbingly bored”). When meeting leaders frame a meeting as an opportunity for facetime AND an opportunity to move a team or an organization ahead, then those meeting leaders can really cash in on a golden opportunity.

      • With your dispersed team that makes perfect sense. My team is all in the same building, we see each other every day, yet they still drag us all in a room…

        I am much more of an informal meeting person!

        And I read regularly, great info!

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