Meetings are a crucial opportunity for everyone in a company to touch base, express concerns and collaborate in a meaningful way. Employees are given the floor to voice their opinions, and management receives valuable feedback and can directly communicate with the group.
There is a proper way to hold them, though. Meetings that have a positive impact require planning and evaluation at every stage of the process. Here are fundamental meeting questions to ask before, during and after in order to optimize the time.
Lay out the basics before the meeting to determine its structure. This doesn’t require input from every meeting participant—just the individual(s) leading it.
Why is this meeting being held? Before you invite others, establish a compelling reason for it. This will guide the meeting’s organization and ultimate goals. Once this is identified, a basic agenda and purpose should be communicated so that others can prepare.
Who will attend? Determine who the topic is relevant to. Casting a wide net allows a greater variety of opinions. However, more decisions can be made with a leaner group. And including too many people demonstrates a poor understanding of the task at hand and the responsibilities of those involved.
How long will the meeting last? Ideally, a meeting takes the least amount of time necessary. But it also can’t be rushed and often requires digging deep. This delicate balance makes it difficult to specify a time frame. Generally, a meeting shouldn’t exceed one hour.
What are the goals of this meeting? In order to achieve something at a meeting, goals must be established. These may be big or small, action- or result-oriented.
Where will the meeting be? Logistics are pretty fundamental. This decision can also affect how the meeting goes. For instance, having a room with many distractions or dark lighting could hinder productivity. Additionally, technical considerations such as equipment should guide the location choice.
The following questions will help ensure peak meeting efficiency.
Is this meeting one-sided or collaborative? Meetings don’t always have a collaborative structure, per se. Some are informative or instructive. It’s important to distinguish between the two and be clear to the group. If the meeting involves a little bit of both, or if it feels necessary to shift during the meeting, this can be done by directly addressing others or by indicating there will be a change.
Are we staying on topic? Digressions are inevitable, and having a few of them keeps things interesting. Still, time needs to be used wisely. If a new subject catches your attention, write it down and give it a meeting or discussion of its own.
Is everyone expressing all of their prepared ideas or concerns? There’s a good chance participants will bring their own agenda, ideas or materials. Even if it’s not expected of them, make sure the environment allows for the open exchange of ideas and that time has been allocated to sharing.
Is everyone engaged? It’s near impossible to keep everyone engaged for an entire meeting. If the meeting is running late on a Friday, however, there’s a good chance that it will be more productive on Monday. If this happens, regain the group’s attention by asking questions, showing visuals or changing the tone.
Are the meeting goals being met? Halfway through the meeting, it might become evident that a certain goal is a little more extensive or different than expected. Although it might be disappointing, a meeting can still be successful without fulfilling every goal. When this occurs, the immediate goal is to plan a new attack. When will this be brought up again?
After a meeting wraps up, it should be deliberated on to promote better future meetings and more efficient work. Here are the questions to ask.
What are the main takeaways? Look over your notes, record any general impressions and get to relevant follow-ups immediately. Communicating the main takeaways, plan moving forward and immediate accomplishments reinforces that the meeting was a good use of time. It also brings everyone on the same page, preventing any confusion moving forward.
What is my function? Leaving the meeting, you should have a handle on the game plan. Rather than simply pushing tasks, define your role in the company’s overall goals. Understanding your impact gives your tasks meaning, enhances work ethic and provides a comprehensive view of the company.
What is the timeline? Projects and smart ideas slip through the cracks when people fail to plan ahead. Make sure you account for everything. If someone else is in charge, offer to help manage and track items. If a project has ended, consider how you’ll measure its progress.
How can the next meeting be improved? Honestly seek out which components did and did not work well. Whether it’s for a specific meeting or meetings in general, settle on at least one thing to modify. After all, no meeting is perfect.