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How to Organize Meetings Like a Pro: 9 Steps Unveiled

Meetings shouldn't be boring. Here are 9 best practices to turn inefficient meetings into productive work sessions.

By Kate Dagher  •   July 16, 2020  •   7 min read

We all know the feeling of scrambling to get ready before a meeting begins – and it’s not a good one! In order to increase productivity and efficiency, you’ve got to put in the work before you walk into (or sign into) that meeting room. 

How can you organize more productive meetings and ensure that no meeting gets booked without a purpose? We’ve compiled 9 easy steps to help you organize an efficient and successful discussion. 

Ask these 3 questions before booking the meeting

Let’s take a closer look at these preliminary meeting questions below:

1 Do you really need a meeting?

You’re already super busy, so why add another meeting to the equation unless it is absolutely necessary? First, you should think about if there is another way that you can accomplish your goal without organizing a meeting. It is better to not host a meeting if another method of communication will get the job done instead. Think about if this issue is sensitive and will be better handled as a one-on-one meeting before calling other people to join. It’s also best not to have a meeting if you don’t have the proper time to prepare! You will be so much more productive once your meeting agenda is outlined properly.  

Show up prepared.

Save everyone’s time by coming to the meeting with a collaborative meeting agenda that includes talking points and action items using a tool like Fellow.

2 Who needs to attend?

An article by the Harvard Business Review outlines the key considerations for choosing the attendees of a meeting

“Consider who can help you accomplish your goal and who will be affected by the meeting’s outcome. Identify key decision makers, people who are knowledgeable about (or have a stake in) the topic at hand, those who need to be informed in order to do their jobs, and anyone who will be required to implement decisions made.” 

3 How much time do you need?

Is this a quick standup meeting or is this going to require more time dedicated towards achieving the meeting goal? Consider planning your meetings with even more time than you think you need to ensure that the meeting is not being cut short. Be strict on the time you set aside, respecting that everyone is busy and that time is valuable. 

How to organize a productive meeting in 9 easy steps

Now that you’ve answered the 3 preliminary questions to answer before a meeting and have identified that you require one, you can follow these 9 steps to feel prepared, focused and ready to engage with your team. 

1 State the meeting purpose

It’s important that everyone knows why they have been called to attend your meeting. Think about which type of meeting will best help you to achieve the central goal. Whether this is a status update, decision-making, problem-solving, team building, idea sharing or even an innovation meeting, it is essential that the purpose of the meeting is crystal clear. After your objective is established, you can really begin the planning process to organize a successful meeting. 

2 Invite the right people 

Make sure that you consider who should be invited to the meeting. For an effective meeting, invite those who are able to give valuable insights and those who are able to make decisions. Where in brainstorming meetings or team-building meetings it is an asset to have a larger group attend a session, consider keeping a problem-solving meeting or decision-making meeting for a smaller group. Remember to use the purpose of your meeting as a guideline for who should be present. Be certain not to invite anyone who is not completely necessary to the meeting. Schedules are hectic and each minute of our workday is valuable!

3 Develop a preliminary agenda 

The next important step for planning a productive meeting is to develop an agenda which will create an organized sequence for the meeting. Using a meeting agenda app like Fellow will allow you and your team to collaborate on meeting agendas, assign action items, and stay on track. 

Using a collaborative agenda will help your team members contribute to the conversation and bring forwards any important points they feel would add value to the meeting. A meeting agenda app will also allow you to decide how much time to allocate to each agenda item and gain an idea of how much time this meeting will require. Check out all of our meeting agenda templates to get some extra inspiration! 

4 Encourage attendees to prepare in advance 

It’s a good idea to send out any materials to the attendees of your meeting a few days in advance so they can prepare to have a productive conversation. If you use a meeting productivity tool like Fellow, you can do this by attaching the files in your meeting agenda.

Make sure your team knows that your expectation is for them to be familiar with these materials so that they can be discussed during the meeting. Another great way for your attendees to be prepared for a meeting in advance is to add any questions they may have to the meeting agenda or to make any suggestions to modify it. 

5 Assign roles to participants 

Assigning roles to participants promotes an effective meeting because each person has a specific focus and key contribution to make. A recent article by the Harvard Business Review, provides a great description of key meeting roles:

“A facilitator guides the discussion, making sure all sides of the issue are raised (this is a good job for someone who is developing leadership skills and practicing neutrality). A scribe captures key ideas and decisions and distributes notes (this gives shy people a way to participate.) A timekeeper helps move the discussion along efficiently. A contributor keeps the discussion lively and on track. An expert shares knowledge on particular issues. One advantage: You can ask an expert to attend just part of the meeting, keeping their contribution focused.” 

6 Start the meeting on time

Set the precedent with your team that your meetings start right on time, whether or not people have signed in or showed up yet. It’s already a huge challenge to organize a meeting that everyone can attend because of crazy schedules and a mere lack of time. If the participants have all accepted your invite, assume that they are going to be there on time, and ready to participate. 

Pro Tip

It may be beneficial to book more time than you think you need for your meeting. This will give you some wiggle room for any questions, comments, tech difficulties, or anything else that comes up. If you don’t end up using all of the time you’ve set aside, it is highly unlikely anyone will complain about the meeting ending early!

7 Use the parking lot technique to stay on track 

The parking lot technique is great for keeping on track and on time during your meetings. Let your participants know ahead of time if you plan on using this technique so that everyone is aware. 

Start by explaining to your team members that you only have a set amount of time for the meeting so you will be sticking to the meeting agenda and each agenda item very literally. Avoid deviations from the meeting agenda items by asking participants to write their talking points at the bottom of the agenda (the “parking lot”) instead of interrupting others. You can use a collaborative meeting app like Fellow as your parking lot.

Remote Meeting Minutes Software

The ideas captured in the parking lot will be followed up with after the meeting or at a later date. Acknowledging participants ideas or concerns is important, as is keeping your meeting on its course.

8 Keep track of meeting notes and next steps 

As we suggested earlier, assigning roles to the participants of your meeting is key. That way, you know that someone is being held accountable to produce meeting notes that cover all of the important discussion and decisions that have been made over the course of the meeting. 

Using a meeting notes application like Fellow allows you to write notes and cross out discussion points as the meeting evolves. You can use the private notes section to record your thoughts and share meeting notes easily with all collaborators.

9 Send a meeting recap or follow up email

The last step in organizing a productive meeting is to send a recap or follow-up email with all of the participants to share information from the meeting. This is going to reinforce the importance and main discussion points of the meeting. It is also going to drive outcome-oriented results by reminding your team of their responsibilities so they can hold themselves and their colleagues accountable. 

Free productive meeting agenda templates

How to level-up your meeting productivity ⚡️

In order to plan a productive meeting, it is important that you organize yourself and determine if you really need this meeting, who should attend, and how much time you need to make it successful. Refer back to these 9 steps when you are planning a meeting so that you can ensure that you are signing in or walking into your meeting feeling ready to drive productivity and fully engage your team. 

Finally, consider using a meeting agenda app like Fellow to keep you organized and to save your valuable time by tracking all your meeting notes and action items in one place

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