3 Critical Steps for Effective Meetings

By Eric Stortz – VP of Operations at CTU

Effective MeetingsDespite the universal need for meetings in the business world, widespread adoption of formal project management is still an emerging organizational practice. Few professionals are formally trained to conduct effective meetings and no matter what your profession, you will likely find yourself leading, or actively participating in, such activities. Business meetings are a collaborative effort and should provide value to all attendees. However, one individual can have a powerful, positive effect by taking initiative to ensure communication is efficient and time is spent effectively. Here are three proven techniques to help you achieve maximum productivity.

Determine the length
One of the most important steps when scheduling a meeting is determining how long it should last. Is fifteen minutes or a half hour long enough? Or, will it require a full hour or more? The first meeting to kick off a new initiative may need to be longer than subsequent gatherings. This helps everyone involved fully understand goals and come to an agreement on what steps are necessary to achieve them. Once the plan is in place, shorter meetings are an effective way to keep stakeholders focused and making progress toward key milestones.

Write it down
At the beginning of a meeting, identify a designated note-taker to capture all of group’s proposed or confirmed decisions, actions, and ideas. Even if you are not the most skilled, experienced, or senior person in the room, you can make a substantial positive impact on the meeting by embracing the role of the scribe. The act of taking notes shouldn’t be a passive process. Effective meetings often have an individual write on a whiteboard or grab a computer with a visible screen to begin to capturing ideas, goals, action items, and timelines in writing. Translating the discussion from verbal dialogue into actual visual information is an effective way for attendees to picture and comprehend the plan as it unfolds.

At the end of the meeting, one individual should review all of the ideas captured by the note-taker and recap the decisions made, ideas shared, and actions that have been proposed.  Doing so helps identify the critical next steps and provides clarity for attendees to ensure everyone is on the same page. This person should emphasize the 2-3 most important action items and establish who is accountable for accomplishing those tasks next. Recapping the action items and identifying owners for each will help ensure future activities are efficient and effective.

Reap the benefits
A productive meeting should leave attendees with a greater understanding and genuine commitment to the initiative. All significant pending decisions or issues should be resolved, and all parties should have a clear understanding of their personal role in the go-forward plan.

Taking the initiative to drive an effective meeting demonstrates leadership and can lead to more visibility within your organization. As an added benefit, colleagues and superiors may be impressed with your ability to influence others and seek you out to serve as a valued contributor in future meetings.

How do you make your meetings more effective? Share your tips below.

CTU VP of Operations - Eric StortzEric Stortz brings over a decade of experience in operations and technology to his current role as Vice President of Operations at CTU. In championing the university’s efforts to adopt formal project management, he’s led highly productive meetings in which key stakeholders invest time and energy to accomplish organizational change. Eric is an avid runner, self-aware Nike fanatic, and has a current Klout score of 54. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Image credit (markers): Tumblr/Danshin