Make the Most of Your Work Meetings

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Posted by The Editors on January 10, 2012
Make the Most of Your Work Meetings

If you’re new to the working world and starting to define your daily schedule, you may find it’s being rapidly filled up by meetings. Corporate America loves them, and while some are valuable, some are not—think Michael Scott’s thrown-together “diversity day” meeting on The Office.

If you’re put in charge of organizing a meeting, you should make sure it’s a useful endeavor for you and your colleagues. And while it may seem like you can just wing it, you definitely shouldn’t. Here are some tips to consider when you have to organize a meeting.

Evaluate who really needs to attend. I’ve been a part of meetings where topics outside my realm of expertise are discussed, and I realize my attendance is not really necessary. Don’t just CC everyone in your department on a meeting invite: Think about who can really contribute.

Consider making the meeting optional. People are busy, and if they have other tasks to accomplish that day, they will appreciate your flexibility. 

Always have an agenda. This is crucial: If you make an agenda and send it out in advance of the meeting, your attendees will know what you want to accomplish and come prepared. You can even assign times for specific portions of the agenda, which will help prevent people from rambling and getting off topic.

Take charge. If you’re leading the meeting, take the helm and direct the meeting how you want it to go. Stand at the front of the room or sit at the head of your conference table. Lead the conversation where you want it to go, ask thoughtful questions, and make sure everyone is equally heard.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Nothing annoys me more than a flung-together meeting that lacks necessary supporting material. PowerPoints can be boring, but often they are a necessary evil, so if you’re making one, make sure it’s visually pleasing and not too text-heavy. Or, consider printing out the agenda along with a space for notes. Again, these materials can help keep the meeting on track.

Assign a note-taker. This isn’t always necessary, but good ideas can be forgotten quickly if they aren’t written down. Ask someone in advance if they mind taking notes for you. I often volunteer myself as the “note-taker” in our meetings because it keeps me actively engaged in the discussion, and I find we refer to those notes frequently in the months after, so it’s important that they are thorough. 

Start and end on time. This is another pet peeve of mine. If you say your meeting ends at X o’clock, end it then. People have other meetings, lunch appointments, and trains to catch.

Have an action list at the end. Don’t let the good ideas and enthusiasm from your meeting get lost. To wrap up your meeting, review your agenda and summarize what each person needs to do in the coming days.

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