The 6 Qualities Meetings Need to Have to Be Effective

August 18, 2017

For meetings to be effective, they need to have a leader, a purpose, an agenda, the right time, focus and prepared participants.

If you want to make your organization more productive, there’s arguably no better place to start than meetings.

Think about it. Research has found the average professional spends about a third of their time in meetings. And that number only increases as people climb up the ladder, with managers spending half their time in meetings and CEOs spending nearly 70 percent of their workday meeting with others.

That’s a lot of time, particularly from an organization’s most influential and most expensive employees. How that time is spent greatly affects how productive your organization is.

The key to making the most of this time is ensuring all meetings adhere to six core principles, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dave Crenshaw said in his course, Leading Productive Meetings. Regardless of your industry or the state of your business, these core principles hold true, he said.

Crenshaw said the six principles of effective meetings are:    

1. Meetings shall have a meeting leader.

The person who calls the meeting should generally be the meeting leader. The meeting leader doesn’t mean the most senior person in the room, either – if you call a meeting with your boss, you are the meeting leader.

It’s a meeting leader’s job to enforce the remaining five principles.

2. All meetings should have a stated purpose.

There’s an old expression – if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. In other words, it’s impossible to get a good outcome if you don’t know what the outcome you want is.

So, before scheduling a meeting, the meeting leader should ask this question: what is the result I want from this meeting? And then, the meeting leader should start the meeting by saying, “the goal of this meeting is… (whatever the goal is).”

Not only does asking this question help the conversation stay focused, it also cuts down on unnecessary meetings.

3. Meetings should be shorter, instead of longer.

When it comes to scheduling a meeting, it’s better to go short than long. This forces the meeting’s participants to make wise decisions about how they spend their time in the meeting, Crenshaw said.

“Time hates a vacuum,” Crenshaw said. “Meetings will almost always take as long or longer than you schedule them to last.”

Looking for more guidance in how long you should set a meeting for? Watch Crenshaw’s 3-minute lesson on how to best schedule a meeting.

4. Meetings shall have an agenda.

Each meeting should have an agenda, created by the meeting leader and sent out at least 24 hours beforehand. It’s possible there’s just one agenda item for a meeting – that’s perfectly fine.

This helps keep meetings structured. But it also helps the participants prepare for the meeting, making meetings more effective.

Additionally, introverts tend to prefer an agenda and pre-reads, as it gives them time for solitary processing. In this way, an agenda makes for a more inclusive meeting as well.

5. Participants shall come prepared to the meeting.

The meeting leader isn’t the only one who needs to prepare for a meeting. All participants need to prepare as well, by reading through the agenda and any pre-reads, along with thinking about any questions they have going into it.

6. The meeting leader shall keep participants focused throughout the meeting.

There is no shortage of ways meetings can lose focus. People start checking their email when other people are talking; someone brings up something personal or completely off-topic; two people start talking about something that only involves them; etc.

The meeting leader needs to address these issues as they come up. They need to redirect conversations when they go off-track and ensure people follow the ground rules of the meeting (like, for example, no open laptops). To learn how to keep meetings focused, watch Crenshaw’s 3-minute lesson on keeping meetings productive and on topic.

Tying it all together

Meetings have a bad rap, as employees often see them as time-wasters where productivity goes to die.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings can be your most productive hours of the day, where decisions are made and people collaborate effectively.

The key is enforcing the six principles Crenshaw identified. By adhering to all six, you’ll make your organization far more effective and make for a happier, more productive workplace.

*Image from Aidan Place, Flickr

Looking to run more productive meetings at your organization? Watch Dave Crenshaw’s full LinkedIn Learning course, Leading Productive Meetings