Follow along as we spotlight why meetings must be effective and identify 12 tips to improve them.

Sound Advice

In a discussion with Kristin Arnold, she shared that University of Arizona research indicates there are more than 11 million formal meetings per day in the United States – adding up to three billion meetings per year.

As a high stakes meeting facilitator, Ms. Arnold understands the investment implications of meetings gone wrong and offers three strategies to drive meeting productivity:

1.  Align and share the agenda – make sure every attendee knows the overall goal (rarely is a meeting not connected to a larger objective), meeting purpose, the deliverable, and specific measurable targets in advance.

Remember sharing the agenda in advance is a smart move.

Surprisingly independent studies reveal that up to 60% of meetings do not have prepared agendas. Embrace this simple step and make your agenda as specific as possible.

Alternately, if the meeting starts out without an agenda, be bold and create one at the beginning of the meeting.

Use this simple formula: List the topics/name, ask how long/who will lead, does the team have enough time? If no – assign A-B-C priorities, and start with the “A’s.”

2.  Utilize technology – fully leverage today’s technology that can streamline everything from scheduling and recording to information sharing without leaving your computer.

Examples inside the Microsoft Office include Skype for Business and Outlook, along with SharePoint. Outside solutions for engagement can be covered by Skype, Doodle, and Google Docs.

3. Create and track action items – Before wrapping up, make sure action items are summarized, and that roles along with due dates are assigned to each participant. If a follow-on meeting is critical, schedule it before the group breaks up for the day.

Pro tip: Working with a large team? Use a Revolving Action Item List (RAIL) that is typically built in Excel or similar software, with these headings: Action, Owner, Description, Priority, Open Date, and Finish Date.

Return On Your Investment

Heading out to a conference or seminar this year?

Read ‘What Successful People Do At Conferences & Seminars’ and embrace these 8 tips to get results from upcoming industry and business events.

Successful people know that conferences and seminars are what you make of them.


Limited Time To Prepare?

We have all encountered the last minute invitation to present or simply ran out of time to fully prepare for an important meeting.

So what is the one thing you can do?

Focus in advance for 20 minutes by capturing the answers to the five W’s on a clean sheet of paper (e.g., Who, What, When, Where, and Why). With these answers written down, use the next few moments to add the three points that are critical for you to deliver during the meeting.

Ideally, your points will outline the plan on how the goal (and reason for the meeting) will be accomplished.

Use any remaining time to create a short list of questions you will need key players to answer in the meeting before it wraps up. Also be ready to deliver a concise response that gives you time to follow up on any surprising questions.

As an example, to give yourself time: “I am evaluating that at this time, and I will report on the results at the next meeting”.

On the way to the meeting – repeat and commit these details to memory.

Appearing Smart

On a lighthearted note, writer, and comedian Sarah Cooper’s clever book, ‘100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying’, is full of humorous ways to approach meetings.

The book has been honed on her Ms. Cooper’s popular website, which is dedicated to looking smart while avoiding those HBO (satirical) moments in workplace meetings.

By documenting time spent at Yahoo and Google in her early career, the readers gain a different perspective on why using phrases like “Will this scale” and actually drawing a Venn diagram can make an impact.

Now it’s your turn

Which meeting are you leading or attending the month that can benefit from these strategies?

In the comments section that follows, join the conversation by letting us know what is working. Already great at leading meetings – take a moment to share a tip.