3 Outstanding Tips! How to have Effective Meetings?

Effective Meetings

How to have Effective Meetings? Meetings are an integral part of an everyday life in a corporate and the number of hours that you spend in meetings keeps increasing as you rise higher in an organization. Except for a few roles that are of an “Individual Contributor” in nature where attending meetings is relatively less, in all other roles a substantial portion of a person’s working day will be spent in meetings.

While at entry level the percentage of time spent in meetings can be as low as 5-10% of the total time, at senior levels these time can shoot-up to 90-95% of the working time. No wonder senior level persons need to be workaholics as they need to find time over and above their working hours spent on meetings to get their work done.

Since, so much of an organization time is spent on meetings it is important to understand why do we have meetings? Since, in a large organization all tasks are completed by teams of people working together, most of the meetings in an organization are internal meetings to accomplish any one of the specific purpose like.

You will learn that meeting internal specific effective work-

1. Why do we have meetings?
2. Cost of Meetings (COM)
3. Tips on how to have Effective Meetings

#1: Pre-work tips
#2: Tips during the meeting
#3: Post work (after the meeting)

I) Why do we have meetings?

  1. Information Sharing Meetings:- These meetings are conducted to share information and updates from time to time for example – effective meeting trainings, new policies etc.
  1. Status Update Meetings: – These meetings are used when set of people or set of teams are working together on a different parts of a project and need to share updates on the status of the work that they are doing. These meetings are typically repetitive in nature and get repeated after a fixed time interval like daily, weekly, monthly etc.
  1. Decision Making Meetings: – These meetings are typically when a decision needs to be made and the decision maker wants inputs of different stakeholders before taking the decision.
  1. Problem Solving Meetings: – At times, group of people come together to brain storm and discuss and decide on the best way to solve an organizations problem.
  1. Miscellaneous Type of meetings: – There can be some other meetings like innovation meetings, effective team building meetings, performance review meetings, audit review meetings, effective board meetings etc.

Besides the internal meetings there can be meetings with external stake holders that a person may need to attend. For the purpose of these article we will confine our discussion to internal meetings that entry level and mid effective meetings management level person needs to attend.

II) Cost of Meetings (COM):

Is there something like cost of meetings (COM)? The answer is a definitive yes, and it is the summation of all the costs of the persons, who are attending the meetings plus the cost of infrastructure for having that meeting. For our discussion we can assume that cost of meeting is the cost that the company incurs in terms of the time spent on that meeting by the participants.

Let me clarify this further by giving you an example. In most of the companies the head of various effective department meetings will typically meet once a week or a fortnight for one or two hours to discuss about operational issues.

Let’s say that in an organization XYZ Ten of the senior leaders are meeting once a week for two hours. Also, let’s assume that

  • Average CTC of these senior leaders is Rs 36 Lakhs.
  • Therefore average salary per month = 36,00,000/12 = 300,000
  • Therefore average salary per day = 3,00,000/30= 10,000
  • Assuming 10 hours of working per day – Av. Cost per hour = 10,000/10 = Rs. 1000/-
  • Time for 10 leaders meeting for 2 hours = 10 * 1000 * 2 = 20,000/-

Hence, the cost of this meeting is 20,000/- Rs. However, we have used a very simplified model in the above, if we add more complexity by considering the benefits of effective meetings and the fact that employees work only for 22 days in a month etc. the actual cost of meeting will easily be double this amount.

Now that you have understood that meetings have a cost. It is no brainer to understand why having effective meetings is very important for any organization as a significant portion of time of its employees is spent on meetings.

So, let’s get into how to avoid having meetings that are dull, unproductive, disorganized and too long? Based on my 20+ experience in the corporate and attending on average 3+ meetings everyday here are some tips on making the meetings more effective.

First and foremost with proper planning and preparation, any meeting can be effective and enjoyable. If the facilitator plans properly and executes flawlessly and has proper follow-up the meeting will be effective.

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III) Tips on how to have Effective Meetings

The effective meetings tips can be divided into three parts

  1. Pre-work (Before the meeting)
  2. During the meeting
  3. Post work (After the meeting)


#1: Pre-work tips

  1. Agenda:
  • The person who is going to run the meeting needs to decide on what is the purpose of the meeting.
  • What are the outcomes expected?
  • Based on these an agenda for the meeting needs to be developed.

The agenda for the meeting needs to be very the clear about the outcomes expected. If the agenda of the meeting is not clear than the desired outcome will not be achieved. Let me give you an example to clarify this – Let’s say that you are asked to organize a meeting to review the sales no. of the last quarter and decide on action for the next quarter. Than in that case, you may send the agenda for the meeting in any one of the ways like

  • Meeting to review Sales.
  • Review Sales figure for Q2
  • Discussion on sales.

In each of the above cases the agenda is not very clear and chances are that the meeting will go all over the place and the participants would not be prepared for the meeting, reducing the meeting effectiveness drastically

So let’s look at what a good agenda for this meeting would look like:

Title: Sales Review Meeting                                             Duration: 2hours

Sr. No Subject Presenter Duration
1 Introduction & background Jacob 10 Mins
2 Presentation on Northern & Western region (Last quarter results, what went right, what went wrong) Sheena 30 Mins
3 Presentation on Southern & Eastern region (Last quarter results, what went right, what went wrong) Edie 30 Mins
4 Open discussion on the performance, areas of improvement and deciding the strategy for next quarter Matt 40 Mins
5 Review of actions from the meeting Rachel 10 Mins

As you can see from the above effective meetings agenda it becomes very clear that the structure of the meeting is clearly defined. The participants who are supposed to present know what they need to present and the duration within which they need to complete the effective meetings presentation.

Such detailed agenda will therefore help in ensuring that meetings become more effective.

  1. Participants List: Most of the times the organizers do not think through on who are the participants that need to be invited. It is very important that based on the outcome required from the meeting the correct set of participants are invited.

In case, if some of the required participants are missed out than the decision cannot be taken. Alternatively if we end up inviting participants who are not needed in the meeting than they will be wasting their time, feel bored during the meeting and may create disturbance impacting the discussions.

  1. Other Misc. things : Some other things that the organizer needs to keep in mind is to ensure that
  • Correct size of the meeting room is booked.
  • Participants confirm their participation for the meeting in advance.
  • If the participants are supposed to go thru any data / reading material/ preparatory material than the same needs to be sent well in advance.
  • At times all the participants are expected to present their material in standard way in such a case templates needs to be circulated in advance.

#2:Tips during the meeting:

  1. Start the meeting and end the meeting on time. If the meeting has time slots for different pieces of agenda than keep track on time and try to ensure that those time limits are strictly adhered to.
  2. If possible, serve light refreshments or tea/coffee as they are good icebreakers and keep the members awake and engaged.
  3. Greet the members at the beginning of the meeting, give the background and quickly go thru the agenda of the meeting and expected outcome of the meeting at the start to ensure that all the participants are on the same page.
  4. Encourage discussions to get all points of view and effective meetings ideas. In case, if some of the members are not talking ask them specific questions to get their opinions also.
  5. Always keep conversation focused on the topic. Ensure that the discussion is constructive and repetitive comments are avoided. You can tactfully end discussions when they are getting nowhere or becoming destructive or unproductive.
  6. At the end of the meeting, summarize the meeting discussion, agreements reached, actions that need to be taken and decide on the time of the next meeting (if needed)

#3: Post work (after the meeting):

So you had a good productive discussion in the meeting, where people have agreed on the action that needs to be taken. So is it OK for you to relax?

The answer is a big “NO” and the reason is that the biggest challenge in any organization is that people after attending the meeting do not follow-up on the actions that are assigned to them and as a result the actions are never completed and the outcomes expected do not come thru.

To ensure that you achieve the expected outcomes, immediately (within max2-3 working days) you need to send to all the participants Minutes of the Meeting “MOM” along with the actions that came out of the meeting.

Your MOM and Action items in general should contain the following

  1. Summary of discussion that took place
  2. Agreements reached
  3. Areas where there were disagreements and where follow-up meetings/ discussions are required.
  4. Action items

Now coming to MOM and Action items, in my experience I have seen that most of the participants do not catch the actions clearly and as a result they do not get implemented. Let me explain this with an example.

In the meeting that we discussed above, most of the time the action items will be sent like this.

Action Items

  1. To create sales strategy for “C” Customers
  2. Check on feasibility of selling product x
  3. Improve sales in Kanpur by 10 %
  4. Have follow-up meeting to discuss about the new completion in south.

The above Actions are not very effective as it does not have the following

  1. Name of the person who is responsible for the action
  2. Time in which the Action needs to be completed.

So a better way of presenting the Action Items will be

Sr. No Action Item Responsibility Due Date Comments
Primary Support
1 Create an effective sales strategy for “C” Customers, who are not purchasing our products and should be brought for discussion in the next review meeting Martin Jinal 10th Oct.
2 Create a test marketing plan for “Product X” in the Manhattan Market based on which all India level roll out can be planned Rick Jared 15Th Oct Should also include detailed costing of advertisement’s planned.
3 Ohio Sales team to be pushed to increase their Sales by 10% in November Hobert Petricia 30th Nov
4 Set a follow-up meeting by Mid Nov. to discuss the actions from today’s meeting and review our competitors marketing strategy for southern region Eric Nov 10Th

As you can see from the above action items, these actions are a lot more likely to be completed as there is no ambiguity on who is going to complete the action and the time line within which the meeting needs to be completed.

To summarize a lot of organizational time, efforts and money is spent in meetings and it is therefore imperative on each and every employee, to ensure that the meetings are effective.

By following some of the simple steps mentioned above you will be able to improve the quality of your meetings quite a bit. Additionally, do a critical review of all the meetings that you are attending to check what went right and what was wrong in meeting and this will go a long way in ensuring that you become a master at having effective meetings.

Hope that we have justified the answer to the question, How to have Effective Meetings?

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