Schedule Effective Meetings
Meetings are a requirement in any endeavor, whether in person or remotely. However, it is vital to make them as effective and efficient as possible, so that you aren’t wasting people’s precious time. We’ll take a look at a few things that you should keep in mind to make sure that your meetings run smoothly.
The very first question you should ask is if the meeting is essential.
Will you merely be presenting material to people and eliciting a ‘yes/no’ answer? Then quite frankly, you don’t need a meeting. Make use of email or a sharing platform (Sharepoint, Slack, etc.) to make the information available to all concerned parties. Include a link to a simple survey to collect their feedback. Outlook survey options/polls (we show you how here) or a service like SurveyMonkey makes this extremely easy.
If this is a recurring meeting (team or project updates), always consider that there may be times when there will be no updates, so one session in the series can get canceled. One time of cancellation can happen when key players are away on holiday, or the office is closed for a while. Don’t feel that you must have the meeting, just because it scheduled on the calendar.1
However, in cases where you want to brainstorm a problem, or you want to invite discussion about a topic, then a meeting is a way to go. “Science shows that, under the right circumstances, meetings can provide a place for creative thinking, problem-solving, discussion, and idea generation.”3
Make use of technology to facilitate meetings. Even in-person meetings can benefit from the use of Audio-Visual equipment to make presentations or the use of an electronic whiteboard to brainstorm. These tools can minimize the use of paper and can make note-taking and minute generation more efficient.
Consider using electronic note-taking applications (like OneNote) or making use of the save and distribution features of a SmartBoard. You put all of the output of the meeting in an electronic form for you to incorporate into follow up minutes and distribute to attendees. Audio recordings are another way to capture content from a meeting.
For those times when in-person meetings are not possible, or not required, look for Video Conferencing applications like Skype or Zoom. These applications not only provide you with audio and video, but often have additional features that allow you to present material, share your desktop, record the session, or make use of an online whiteboard.
Most corporations set up all potential meeting rooms with their accounts in Outlook, so that you can check availability and book the resources appropriately. If you are unsure about what is available within your organization, reach out to your Tech Support folks for guidance.
All meetings should have a set agenda prepared and distributed before the meeting, to ensure that all attendees are coming prepared, and to ensure that everyone is on the same page for the meeting. Even recurring meetings should have a standing plan to ensure that your status meetings stay on track. It can be incredibly frustrating to people when their weekly status update meetings devolve into an unstructured “What’s going on?” type of conversation.
Ensure that the meeting contributes to the overall departmental or organizational goals. Within the plan, identify the decisions that are to be made based on the discussion at the meeting.2
It is critical to follow up on all meetings with an overview of what was discussed and decided. Prepare and distribute these minutes in a timely fashion. Another reason that note-taking and recording tools are essential.
As with all things in life, communication is critical. Be sure that all attendees are aware of the meeting with enough notice to prepare for it. Agendas and minutes contribute to excellent communication. But additionally, the booking and rebooking (when required) of meetings need to be well presented also.
Make use of the features of Outlook (or other calendar applications) to ensure that attendees have visibility into their meeting schedules. The title of the meeting should be descriptive, to make the purpose of the meeting clear. The meeting information should also include the where and how, in addition to the when and what. For an online meeting, the link to the application should be easily accessible. Outlook calendar provides features to handle all of these critical components.
Outlook (and other calendar applications) have features that allow attendees to Accept or Decline a meeting, as well as to propose different times. Use these features within the calendar application when you have to get invited to a meeting. Sending an email to the organizer, asking for a different time, just adds steps to the process. By using the Propose option, you allow the organizer to go straight to the meeting entry to make appropriate adjustments.
There are several things to keep in mind when managing your meetings, which are merely polite things to do.
Arrive at your meeting on time. Whether in person or online, be considerate of other people’s time. As the organizer of the meeting, be sure to arrive early to ensure that all technology is set up and working appropriately. Even better if you are lucky enough to have an assistant or tech support person to do this for you.
Assuming that everyone arrives on time, you can start your meeting on time. But it is just as essential to ending your meeting when it is supposed to end. Even if you have not completed your whole schedule, be willing to book a follow-up meeting rather than extend the current meeting.
When booking meetings, be sure to check people’s schedules. Use the tools at your disposal (like Outlook Calendar features) to check attendee availability. Checking everyone’s calendar on your team does require that everyone keeps their calendar availability up to date, so some overall training on this may be necessary (you can learn how to set it up here). In this global economy, it is vital to take into account different time zones. People can get very annoyed when they see that you’ve requested a meeting at 5:00 am or 7:00 pm in their local time. Keep in mind that people may work on different holiday schedules. Even within your own country, statutory holidays vary from province to province and state to state.
Provide enough time between meetings for people to travel to a location or to prepare for your meeting. The meeting is not only on your calendar but also on each attendee’s calendar. Don’t forget to include the availability of meeting rooms. Booking back to back meetings in a single meeting room does not allow for the possibility of the first meeting going long. And yes, this does not permit you to have time to set up for your meeting. So, try booking the meeting room for the whole hour, but invite attendees to arrive 5 or 10 minutes after the hour. No one says that all meetings must start and stop on the hour or half-hour. Check out our quick video on how to set up meeting buffers here.
Check out KWTs Topic courses for more information on how to effectively use Outlook Calendar for managing your meetings.
1 Jell. ” Psychology Of Routine Meetings: Understanding The Cause And Cure.” <https://jell.com/blog/psychology-routine-meetings/>.
2 Psychology Today. ” The Real Reason Meetings are Unproductive.” 11 May, 2017. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/are-you-persuadable/201705/the-real-reason-meetings-are-unproductive>
3 APS. ” Psychological Science Can Make Your Meetings Better.” 9 November, 2018. <https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/psychological-science-can-make-your-meetings-better.html>