12 tips to run the perfect meeting

Ever dozed off in a meeting?

Apparently, 39 per cent of us have (source: CBS News), possibly either bored to sleep by an over-long agenda, only half of which may be relevant to us, or by lengthy digressions away from the business at hand.

Maybe you've fallen victim to the Jokester or the 127 Slides Guy, requiring a constant drip of coffee to keep your attention as the meeting enters its third hour.


Here at the Crown Lodge Hotel, where the coffee flows freely, we're keen to help your meeting run as efficiently as it can.

So we've come up with 12 ideas to keep your meeting on track and your eyes open.

Set clear objectives

What results do you want to achieve from your meeting? Without clear objectives, your meeting will lack focus and risks becoming a talking shop where lots of items are discussed but no decisions are reached.

Given that research shows that the average UK office worker spends around 16 hours in meetings each week, that's a huge amount of potentially wasted time.

Consider this before you even set your agenda:

At the close of the meeting, I want the group to...

Keep meetings small

There's a slightly scary story about how the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs used to ensure only people who really needed to be at a meeting remained in the room.

At a weekly meeting with Apple's ad agency, Jobs noticed someone new in the room. "Who are you?" he asked.

After explaining she was working on a related marketing project, Jobs simply said: "I don't think we need you in this meeting, Lorrie. Thanks."

Brutal, but Jobs didn't want a bloated meeting, and presumably didn't want to pay for someone's time he considered unnecessary.

So keep your meeting numbers down to only those that need to be there, and you'll have a tighter, focused meeting, and save money.

Plan properly - everyone!

Ever sent round some preparatory notes for a meeting and then had to go through them all anyway because some or all of the attendees haven't bothered to read them?

Most meetings should be about making decisions or plans based on a subject with which people are already familiar.

Al Pittampalli, who wrote Read This Before Our Next Meeting, believes those attending meetings must "turn up in mind and spirit and contribute something."

If they don't, then you could ask if they really need to be there at all...

The accountability mindset

Here's another from Steve Jobs, who believed every topic on the agenda must have a "directly responsible individual" or DRI.

So every item on your agenda should have the name of the DRI for that project, who prepares all the pre-meeting material and leads the discussion on that subject.

The environment

Do you always have your meetings on the same site, in the same room? A change of scenery, away from the workplace and free from distractions, can often work wonders.

Virgin boss Richard Branson is a big fan of adding some novelty to meetings, whether inviting inspirational speakers or taking meetings to innovative spaces (sadly, most of us don't have our own private island, but there's always the park!).

Another increasingly popular trend is for the no-chair meeting; standing meetings can cut down the time taken to reach decisions by 34 per cent - and the decisions turned out to be just as good as those taken while sitting down.

Ban tech

This may not be popular, but if everyone is checking their email, Twitter or Facebook they will not be fully engaged with the meeting.

People should be able to cope without their tech for shorter meetings, and longer meetings should have regular breaks built in where people can keep tabs on their electronic life and make telephone calls etc.

Start on time - end on time

Allocate a fixed time for the meeting, with time limits for each topic on your agenda, and stick to it.

Make sure everyone has access to the agenda at the meeting so they know how long each subject should take, and don't feel bad about reminding people of the time limits as you go along.

Laugh

If you're chairing the meeting, you don't have to be poker-faced and there is room for humour while also keeping the meeting flowing on time.

Warming up the room with a sense of humour and a few minutes of chit chat will make you appear confident and will help to loosen up the room and make others feel more of a team, building up an important rapport.

Keep control!

In any meeting, there will be people who take centre stage, whose voice is louder than any other, and who can intimidate others into the status of an onlooker...

Don't let them.

There are ways to politely thank people for their contribution without appearing rude, before opening the room out to others who want or need to have a say.

If someone keeps on digressing, keep a separate list of subjects that can be discussed outside of the meeting, or at a later, more appropriate, meeting.

...but don't undermine

Don't be that person - the one who, possibly unwittingly, antagonizes and undermines colleagues with snide put-downs. People notice, and they'll remember. If you're not sure if you do this kind of thing, check out author Gretchen Rubin's list of patronising offences.

Make sure you get results

Make sure a decision or action point is assigned for every subject on the agenda before moving on.

Follow up

So the meeting's over, and everyone toddles off back to their desks ready to get stuck in to their action points. Or do they? Have they made proper notes? Do they know exactly what's expected of them?

Make sure you follow up either the same day or the next day with proper minutes with action points, and preferably deadlines.

Running the perfect meeting is far from easy, but if you stick to some of the principles above you should see an improvement in efficiency across the organisation.

If you're looking for a conference room or meeting room in Wisbech and its surrounding areas, we'll take care of all the logistics, leaving you free to focus on the job in hand.