How to Organize a Meeting? Best Practices

Communication and Skills


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Aniket Deolikar
Consultant, India

How to Organize a Meeting? Best Practices

Many people are considering meetings a waste of time. Sometimes we might even have thought ourselves that the last meeting we attended was unproductive. However meetings are not a waste of time, but poorly organized and as a result unproductive meetings are! How can we as managers make sure that meetings run smoothly and are productive so that something effective actually comes out of them?

Here are the main best practices to organize / conduct / run productive meetings:
  • LIMIT THE ATTENDANCE: As far as the contribution from everyone is needed, try to keep the meetings limited to a small number of people. There is no universally valid best number, but keeping it to around a maximum of 7-8 people will make it easy to exchange ideas and also to notice the body language of each and every one. Keeping the number low allows everyone to contribute their ideas in a 1-hour meeting. If there are more people, half of them won't be able to contribute and thus their interest in the meeting will degrade, thus making the meeting less productive. According to social loafing theory, if there are too many hands, people work less than they ought to.
  • DON'T ALLOW THE USE OF DEVICES: In particular smartphones and laptops. Many people boast they are good at multitasking, but the truth is that humans cannot multitask, they just quickly change the attention span from one task to others. Thus the use of devices will lead to many distractions in the meeting hampering the real purpose of the meeting. Note also that the use of smartphones in a meeting not only distracts the person himself, but also the others present in the meeting. Also, it is considered socially inappropriate. There can be some exceptions, for example to take notes, or if somebody expects a very important message, but otherwise, the use of smartphones should be avoided to make the meetings short and productive. And obviously, if the person receives such message, he immediately leaves the meeting.
  • KEEP THE MEETING SHORT: Some meeting lasts for 2 hours but still nothing productive comes out of it. Try to keep the duration of meetings short. When people realize there is a large workload, they won't bother wasting time with trivial questions and only important issues will addressed in a short span of time. Some time pressure will make the meetings more efficient, but don't overdo it by making the meeting time so short that you miss important inputs.
  • CREATE AND SPREAD THE AGENDA OF THE MEETING WELL AHEAD OF TIME: A very important aspect of the meeting is the agenda of the meeting. People should know what topics will be discussed in the meeting ahead of time. This gives two main advantages:
    • People will be prepared for the meeting.
    • There will be specific questions.
    Thus the meeting can be short and effective. Only the topics mentioned on the agenda can be discussed. Other topics which are not on the agenda, Have to be postponed until a next meeting. This increase the discipline and will keep the current meeting focused, concise and clear.
Using these practices will help increase the productivity of most of the meetings.

⇨ Please share any additional tips on organizing meetings. I am looking forward to your ideas!

Sources: Amy Gallo, "The Condensed Guide to Running Meetings", HBR Guide, 2015, July 6.

Consultant, India

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