Meetings are often considered a waste of time…

When they used well, they can be a handy tool for moving projects forward.

Indeed emails, conversations … will never replace a physical meeting where we can take the time to explain things, to go into details, to communicate on an important project…

4 steps to make (finally) effective and productive meetings!

Step 1: Do a meeting only if you cannot do otherwise!

If you think that an email, the call of a few key people, a video … is enough, then do not make a meeting.

Book meetings for communications and meaningful projects that require everyone to be at the same level of information.

Step 2: Send your meeting requests at least 10 days in advance!

If possible, send an agenda with, if possible, a working document.

Ideally, your plan should include:

  • Topics to be addressed, clearly stating the order of the day
  • The duration granted to each subject
  • The decisions to be taken

Reference documents, if possible a link to a shared document on google drive, One Drive, Dropbox … so you can edit the document in real time.

With a little experience, we can quickly estimate the time of its meetings, and the easiest way is to time the various interventions (ex: 5 minutes intro, 15 minutes for the presentation …). So you will see if your timing is realistic.

If you cannot give the content of the meeting the same day, then specify the content of the meeting with the primary objectives, and as soon as the working papers are ready, send an update of the meeting to all participants.

In the content of the invitation you must indicate:

  • Indicate which decision you should take during the meeting (or what the objective is). A good reflex is to put a defined goal and goal at your meeting.
  • Remind participants to prepare for their meeting

If necessary, do a prelaunch by email 72 hours before to remind you of the good memories of your colleagues, with the pretext of updating your documents.

It is CRUCIAL that the people attending the meeting have at least thought about some ideas, proposals … before coming.

There is nothing worse than people coming to the meeting who are starting to learn about it.

You do not have to raise all the people involved, but at least those who have critical importance in the meeting. For this, you can call them on the phone, go to their offices … 2 or 3 days before to discuss the subject and thus anticipate the meeting.

– Indicate who should intervene and in what order, and on what topics.

This is one of the keys to moving a meeting forward.

If you have a working document (e.g. launch note, project document …), a trick is to get the participants to talk about their parts (this forces them to prepare the meeting and ask themselves the questions BEFORE coming).

– Add at the end “If you have other points to raise, or questions/suggestions, thank you for sending them now by email” / if you think that other people should be invited, transfer their invitation.

This avoids having comments on topics to discuss.

Step 3: Start your meetings on time!

Wait for 2 to 3 minutes after the ideal start and start your meeting without waiting for the latecomers.

If you make a habit of waiting for everyone to arrive, those who are early will get bored, and those who are late will do the same next time.

So start with simple topics or introduction, it will bring others!

Of course, if it is an important meeting, take with you the list of participants (and phone number) to call them in the meeting (or using Skype, Chatter …). The other trick is to update the meeting (ex: change the agenda, add a document …) to make a reminder.

If it’s an internet meeting, start the Web Seminar 10 minutes before, because there are still connection problems …

Also, prefer audio conferencing services (not voice over IP from the computer).

Finally, finish your meetings on time: for some, there is nothing more terrible than to spend more time than expected …

If necessary, do just after mini-meetings with some of the participants on specific points that are not of interest to everyone.

At the beginning of the meeting thanked the participants for coming, remember the reason for the meeting, the summary, the decisions to be taken, who will take the notes … so that everyone is in tune with the way of working.

To note: do not forget to say that a meeting is there to find solutions, not to discuss problems …

Step 4: Publish the report within 72 hours after … or better take notes live.

It must be very short and especially mention what must arrange (paragraph “For action” with the name of the responsible and the schedule to make the information).

If necessary, you can maintain a project management document (see this article on project management ).

If there are any remarks or caveats, mention them with the person’s name so that their questions are well noted and taken into account.

If your report is lengthy, make a summary at the beginning that only shows the outline, or use an incremental report if it is a project meeting.

Ideally, it is necessary:

  • 1 person who takes notes (and who knows how to type quickly on the computer)
  • 1 person who animates the meeting

If you are afraid of missing things, and if it is an important meeting … save the meeting, either via the web conference service (e.g.,, WebEx, Go to meeting …) or via a tool screen recording (Camtasia …). At worst you can use the voice recorder of your smartphone.

And in Bonus …

– Organize mini-meetings before the meeting to anticipate a maximum of difficulties.

For example, 1 week before the meeting, organize mini-points to disarm the bombs, obtain the points of view, launch actions …

– Avoid meetings on Friday afternoons (weekend starts) and Wednesday (children’s day), as well as meetings around 17h.

Prefer meetings at 11 am to make sure that at 12:30 hunger will advance the meeting …

Also avoid meetings preferably in the morning (e.g. at 8 am while everyone arrives at 9 am), unless you can avoid it. Indeed there is nothing worse than asking people to come sooner, to finally realize that one or two strategic people are late!

If you can not do otherwise, offer a working lunch, but provide the sandwich to get the pill.

– If you are not comfortable, prepare your intervention with of course a rehearsal

– Manage with humor the disruptive: a long silence for the people who discuss during your meetings, ask the people who discuss between them to make everyone benefit from their discussion, make the shy talk, bring back to order the people who depart from the subject …

– If necessary, do not try to solve 100% of the problems at the meeting with a decision on a headshot: for essential questions, give yourself time for reflection.

– If it’s an important meeting, bake cupcakes, a coffee shop … to start the meeting by putting the participants at ease.

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