How to organize a meeting efficiently

Do you struggle with meetings, their number and inefficiency? I have 5 tips for you on how to organize a meeting efficiently.

No matter whether we are working remotely or onsite, it is a crucial skill to be able to efficiently communicate. That is why being able to organize meetings that facilitate but not interfere with the business process is extremely important. That is what we are going to discuss today.

I have already launched a couple of videos about meetings, like kick-off meeting agenda; and stand up meetings agenda  (article).  Today let’s talk about meetings  in general; and let’s discuss how to organize them efficiently.

Problems about the meetings

From my perspective, there are several communication issues on projects that are actually linked together. They are: 

  • the number of meetings; 
  • the meetings duration; 
  • and the meetings efficiency. 

The most common problems that I hear from people and the problems I have faced myself are that meetings happen too often; the meetings are too long; and the meetings do not solve the problems. 

All of this means that people are setting meetings really frequently; the meetings are poorly coordinated; and usually they last way much longer than the booked slot. Moreover, during this meetings they do not find a possibility to solve the problems they are meeting for. That is why they keep setting up more and more meetings further. Rounded circle, isn’t it? 

hamster wheel

Let me know if you have been wearing these shoes too? Or maybe you are wearing them right now? Honestly, for me that was really challenging to attend all of those meetings and to understand that meetings do not bring value; and do not bring the desirable results. 

To get off of this hamster-wheel I have developed a checklist that helps to facilitate and organize the meetings efficiently. What is more, to process them efficiently in order to get results out of them. 

1 - Do you really need a meting?

One of the most crucial things to understand is whether you really need a meeting in order to solve the pending questions? From my practice, apart from those scheduled events, like daily stand ups, weekly / monthly / quoter report meetings, there are really few situations when would need to set up a meeting to resolve some problem or issue. 

There are really few situations that would require to set up a meeting. For instance, if something urgent has popped up that requires rapid actions or special attention. 

Another moment when it might make sense to set up a meeting is when several questions are pending resolution and you are waiting for key stakeholders to reply. In this case it might be reasonable to set up a meeting, to get on a call all together and to finally resolve those pending questions. 

Next case when I usually organize meetings is when you need to get a new team mate on track. To familiarize him / her with the project, with the teammates and with the current situation it might be more convenient to get on a call and to do this all together. 

Thus, when organizing a meeting the first thing you want to do is to define whether you really need this meeting; or it would be more reasonable just to discuss pending questions via an email, or via a quick chat or individual syncs.

2 - Who do you need on a meeting?

Ok, we have defined we really need to set up a meeting. Now it’s time to identify who do we need to attend there. For instance, there is no sense to invite a UX designer if we are solving a problem about the database. It is time to plan who you want to attend the meeting to avoid extra time loss.

Another thing to consider while planning a meeting is meeting attendance prioritization. What I am talking about is the list of people you are going to invite to the meeting. You need to outline whether the attendance on a meeting is compulsory for them, or it is optional. 

For instance, is you do not need some person to directly solve the problem, that you are going to discuss on this meeting; the attendance on the meeting for that person could be optional. Which means, he / she could spend the time allocated for the meeting more efficiently on completion of other tasks, or on solving of other problems. Thus, he / she would be able to check the meeting outcome via the final report or the meeting record. This action will also help in the process optimization.

3 - Time to plan the meeting

Another step in the meeting process optimization is to make sure that you can get the most out of that meeting by creating the meeting agenda. Meeting agenda should contain topics, timing, and supporting materials. All this information should be sent to the meeting participants in advance. This means everybody should be extremely clear on the following questions. What you are going to discuss during the meeting? 

  • What is the order of the pending questions? 
  • How much time do you allocate per each question? 
  • Who is going to report on those questions? 
  • What do they need to be familiar with by the meeting? 
  • And what do they need to have in front of them during the meeting? 

Make sure to attach or provide all the necessary materials and supporting information in order to let the people familiarize in advance and to be able to get prepared for the meeting.

Plan the meeting

4 - Prepare the environment

I guess there is no need to get deep into it, however, keeping in mind that currently the majority of us has moved to the remote work, it is necessary to make sure:

  • that everybody how is going to attend the meeting has the appropriate access to the software that you are going to use on a meeting; 
  • that everybody knows how to use it; 
  • and everybody has a stable connection. 

It is a real pain to be on a meeting where you do not have a possibility to hear or see a reporter; or to see the materials he / she is sharing. That is why such meetings are literally a waste of time. To avoid this, make sure to get prepared in advance.

5 - Be a tough cookie

This is the most important tip from the checklist, because I see the related problems almost everywhere. 

Being tough means that you need to stick to the meeting agenda. And I cannot stress enough how important is that. To stick to the meeting agenda means that you need to be within the outlined topics and within the outlined timing. 

There are several common problems that are sheltered by this tip. One of them is when you are not able to cover all the suggested topics and you start to stick with one of them during all the meeting, while the rest of the topics remain uncovered. 

Another problem is when you start to add more and more questions. Maybe they are related to one or another meeting topic, but still they are not within the suggested agenda. 

The third common problem that is related to the tough cookie tip is when people start to exceed the suggested timing for the meeting either just for one question; or for all of them in the meeting agenda. 

Why this is happening? We are either not prepared enough; or some new details came up and we need to get to this question later when we have more information about it. 

That is why during the meeting you need to take off line every question that is not related to the meeting agenda. And if any of the questions takes more time, than it was allocated initially; you are taking it off line too; or setting up another meeting where you are going to discuss this question individually. 

It is important to be organized. And what is more, it is important to organize others. You are, as a meeting leader need to let everybody know timely if you are getting off track; if some question needs to be closed or taken off line.