Meeting management made easy

Here on the Voltage Control blog, we talk a lot about becoming better facilitators – but facilitation isn’t the only key ingredient to having a magical meeting. The entire meeting process, from the very beginning through the metaphorical epilogue, needs to be managed with care and intention. Here are our top 12 tips for effective meeting management at all stages of your meeting planning process.

The Before

Familiarize Attendees with Tools Beforehand

If you are using any kind of tool beyond a piece of paper and a pen in your meeting, provide these tools to your participants ahead of time along with instructions on how to become familiar with them. Throwing tools at your participants minutes (or mere moments!) before they are to be used sets them up for failure. What’s worse, struggling with the tools early on in a meeting is likely to knock their confidence and lower their participation and level of engagement from that point forward. If you plan to use many unfamiliar tools or tools that are complicated to learn, consider scheduling a short orientation before your actual meeting. Taking 30 minutes to give your participants a 101 on their toolkit can make all the difference.

Set Clear Goals & Communicate Them Ahead of Time

Your participants should never walk into a meeting without an understanding of what it is meant to accomplish, nor should you be planning a meeting without a clear objective in mind. Focus, engagement, and clarity of thought during your meeting will dramatically increase if participants have time to think about the project, problem, decision, or discussion at the core of your meeting ahead of time. Send invitees a brief on the meeting’s goals and expectations along with their invitation; this will allow them to decide whether they feel able to contribute in a meaningful way before responding to your invitation.

Create an Agenda Tailored to Your Goals

Build your agenda with intention – and build it around the objective of your meeting. Copying and pasting the same vague agenda points time and time again will not serve your meeting’s purpose or the work of its participants. Each item on your agenda should have a definable purpose in service of the larger objective. Avoid non-interactive presentations, lectures, and infodumps; your meeting should be spent doing the work. Don’t forget to include breaks and to pad your agenda items with a little extra time in anticipation of questions, unexpected delays, and longer-than-expected discussions.

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Be Strategic About the Logistics

Meeting management can require a great deal of time spent considering logistics. This time may not seem particularly exciting at first glance, but don’t disregard the logistics of your meeting as insignificant. These details can make or break the efficiency and effectiveness of your meeting. For example – did you know Mondays are the worst day to hold a meeting, followed closely by Friday afternoons? Afternoon meetings tend to perform better than morning meetings, with Tuesday afternoons holding the award for the best time to meet. Where you meet also matters. Is the room you want available at the time of your meeting? Does it have the equipment that you need? What is the atmosphere like? If you’re meeting virtually, does your meeting software have the correct capabilities for the activities you’ve planned? Approach the logistics of planning your meeting with a strategy in mind.

The During

Be a Leader, Not an Official

Group meetings are for collaboration, not for status reporting. When you’re in the meeting room, you are not a supervisor – you are a leader. It is your responsibility to guide your team to do the most effective, meaningful work that they are capable of, not to be a supervisor behind a desk waiting for updates. Get your hands dirty. Participate. Engage. Be a leader, not an official.

Be a Friend to the Facilitator

If you’ve managed the planning of your meeting but opted to bring in an outside facilitator – or perhaps another member of your organization – to facilitate the meeting you have planned, be a friend to the facilitator. If you see something that you think the facilitator may be missing, whether that be something big like misalignment or something small like a question, help your facilitator become aware of it. If you have insight or perspective that your outside facilitator may not have any way of knowing, bring that into the room and help them better understand the context that your participants already understand. Watch for ways you can make the facilitator’s job more efficient or effective and assist them in those ways.

Bring a Scribe

Managing a meeting (and/or facilitating a meeting) requires full focus and attention. Bring a scribe to take notes for you so that you can give the discussions and activities your attendees are participating in your full attention. Your scribe can help participants move forward by creating a visible record of the decisions that have been made and subjects that have been discussed, which will help prevent circular conversation. They can also keep a record of who is responsible for what tasks after the meeting is over so that no one leaves the meeting wondering, ‘wait, who was supposed to do that?’

Stick to the Agenda, But Not Too Closely

Your agenda is not a suggestion, but it’s also not a holy book; it should be followed, but not to the letter of the law. Aim to finish each discussion and activity within the allotted time frame, but if good work is being done it may be best to go a little long and shave time off later in the agenda. Striking a balance between time management and flexibility requires you to be in the moment but thinking two steps ahead. Ultimately, what matters is progress towards your objective; keep your end goal in mind at all times and use your time however will best serve your arrival at that goal.

The After

Archive All Meeting Documents

Keep every artifact from your meeting that you can – the agenda, MURAL workspaces, Google Docs, hand-written notes, etc. Non-digital artifacts can be stored in an archive drive as scans or pictures. By creating a record of the work your participants have done through the course of your meeting, you can communicate this work to other teams within your organization asynchronously. Showcasing your team’s work in this way helps keep everyone in the org in-the-know and may inspire other teams to have more magical meetings as well. Documents from your meeting archive can also be referenced when questions about past decisions arise; you’ll have a record of exactly how and why that decision was reached. This will prevent you from rehashing the same conversations over and over.

Send a Follow-Up

Directly following the ending of your meeting, send a follow-up email in which you reiterate key points and decisions that were made. This should include next steps for the team as a whole and a list of individual subsequent tasks as well as who is responsible for each one. As the meeting manager, do this before you even leave the meeting space while your memory is still fresh. This follow-up should also include a link to your archived meeting documents so that participants can reference them as they continue onward with their next steps.

Follow Through

After following up, follow through. Meeting management isn’t over when the meeting is over; you must continue to manage the continuation of the projects, procedures, and decisions at the core of your meeting. Check in with your team about the tasks and responsibilities assigned to them during the meeting and offer them guidance should they need it. What happens in your meeting must be carried into the future or the time has been wasted. Don’t leave the good work behind in the meeting room.

Solicit Feedback

Be sure to ask your participants for feedback about your meeting – both positive feedback and constructive criticism. Even the most magical meetings can always be better, and even the most effective meeting managers have something to learn. While it is great to include time during your debrief in the meeting room to offer feedback, there is something to be said about hindsight. Setting up a google form is a great way to gather anonymous feedback from your team after your meeting is over; just be sure to include the link in your follow-up email.

Want to learn more about how to run better meetings?

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