By Julie Pettett Numanoglu 

Getting the most out of a meeting is important for both the chairperson/organizer and the attendees, because there’s nothing worse than a meeting that drags on for hours and wastes everybody’s time. Rather than being a useful tool of communication, some meetings end up being an intrusion, interrupting the working day and disrupting workflow. Do you constantly find yourself in unproductive meetings? Here are some pointers that might help you get the most out of meetings.

Be Prepared

For those organizing and/or chairing the meeting, there are several practicalities to be arranged that will assist in ensuring that they cover all the relevant issues and points, as well as making sure that those who attend understand why they have been invited, feel comfortable and have been given sufficient information beforehand to prepare.

For starters, the organizer needs to ensure that there is a suitable meeting venue, with refreshments if appropriate, and organize people to take on the different roles necessary, including meeting and greeting, taking the minutes, and preparing the agenda and sending it out to attendees in good time, along with any other relevant papers. A lot of this pre-work can be dealt with if using a serviced office, as meeting rooms will likely be set up beforehand with the necessary projectors and software, whiteboards, etc. For those organizing a webinar meeting, make sure there is access to a computer in a quiet room, with Internet access and telephone lines so there will be no interruptions.

Speaking of Internet access, don’t forget that these days, webinars can also be organized using a virtual office set up or a virtual assistant service, so meetings do not necessarily have to be face-to-face anymore.

Pick a Skillful Chairperson

Once the practicalities have been carried out and the meeting agenda sent around (with requests for any relevant additional agenda items sent back to the chair by a set date), it is important that the person who has been chosen to chair possesses the relevant skills and experience. The chair should have at least some understanding of the topics and issues that will be covered at the meeting. They need to be good listeners, able to sum up information clearly and concisely, and be impartial and respectful whilst keeping participants from wandering off their topic. Having the right sort of chair is crucial in enabling everyone to get the most out of a meeting.

The chair’s behavior at the meeting should set the tone for everyone else attending as well, so the meeting should start on time, and should run in a way that is as inclusive as possible. It is important that everyone is welcomed and that newcomers are introduced and encouraged to ask questions.

The chair should review the minutes of the previous meeting, if there was one, along with any action points that have been achieved. Then, as the meeting gets underway, the chair needs to keep people focused, as well as encourage questions and comments from everyone. The meeting needs to finish on time, which shows respect for colleagues, and minutes and action points sent out in a timely manner a few days afterwards, whilst everything is still fresh in people’s minds.

Go with the Right Attitude

For attendees, in order to get the most out of a meeting, especially if it is the first one attended, ensuring that they turn up on time is really important. If attending an external meeting, always check the directions beforehand. Preparation is key, so any preview papers or minutes of the last meeting should be read beforehand. Make notes of anything that is not clear or uncertain, including the use of acronyms and jargon. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because the simple questions are usually the ones people feel concerned about asking.

Bringing notes or written down questions to a meeting will help in contributing to the discussion and getting the point across. Also, don’t forget those work diaries or iPads so that everyone is prepared when asked to carry out a task, or dates for the next meeting are proposed.

For so many people, meetings are more to be dreaded than an important avenue to communicate issues and get things done. While some certainly give their attendees good reason to be frustrated, meetings really do not have to be such an inconvenience. With the right preparation on the part of everyone involved, and the right chairperson at the helm, everyone can get the most out of meetings.