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‘Meeting’ Doesn’t Have To Be a Four-Letter Word

“A meeting is a group of the unwilling chosen from the unfit to do the unnecessary.”

—Author unknown

Misguided? Possibly. Harsh? Definitely. But this unknown misanthrope succinctly captured a widespread attitude about workplace meetings. As important as they may be, meetings are often viewed as a distraction and a waste of time rather than an essential element of business practice. Let’s be real: for many of us, meetings just suck.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Productive meetings enable you and your coworkers to communicate and share information, solve problems, resolve disputes, improve performance, build teamwork, and move projects forward. By planning ahead and being organized, you can cut down on the time spent in meetings without sacrificing efficiency so attendees can absorb the information they need and get back to their work with minimal time loss. 

According to a recent survey by Lucid Meetings, 45 percent of surveyed employees lead one or fewer meetings a week, while the average number of attended meetings lies between three and four a week. Reducing the time spent on those meetings can not only free up time for other tasks but ensure that the meetings themselves are more productive and yield better outcomes.

That, in turn, raises overall productivity, sometimes pushing it to surprisingly high levels. If you’re looking for a way to keep your company meetings engaging and on-point, a few pointers can help.

Productive meetings start with a strong agenda

A strong agenda ensures your meetings are focused and poised to generate a steady stream of ideas. In the absence of one, simple talking points can get confused, the focus lost in a haze of half-thoughts and tangents. In the end, the entire affair won’t achieve the desired outcome and will probably take way longer than it should. 

A good agenda outlines the meeting’s goals and lists specific tasks or to-dos to accomplish. When creating your agenda, also consider the following:

  • Contact team members to share agenda points and get their input before the meeting. Integrate any questions or issues they may have into the agenda.
  • Make sure everyone has access to the agenda at least a day in advance to give them time to prepare. 
  • Ensure that every talking point is assigned to the appropriate team member. 
  • Use a platform that is readily accessible to the entire team and capable of handling every aspect of the meeting, from prep to follow-up.

Power tip: Use templates in Evernote to organize and plan your meeting agendas. Customize a template for recurring meeting agendas and share it with team members so they can offer input.

Record meeting minutes the smart way

A well-designed agenda serves as a roadmap for the meeting, ensuring all bases are covered without wasting time. Once those priorities are established, teams tackle problems, brainstorm possible solutions, and share ideas. 

The next step? Summarizing and transmitting meeting information and outcomes to team members—an essential but often time-consuming process. And the more time that takes place between the end of the meeting and the promised follow-up, the more likely important details will fade into the background. Accurately capturing information during the meeting can streamline this process considerably, as can utilizing a centralized hub for organizing and sharing all meeting details.

Power tips:

  • Meeting minutes can be written on their own or integrated into the same document as the agenda. If you do create a new note, you can attach the link to keep everything connected.
  • To make sure you don’t miss any important details, record the meeting as audio—on desktop or mobile—right inside the same meeting note. You can even attach a photo of whiteboard scribbles, documents, or handwritten notes to the meeting minutes as well. That makes it easy to keep all the meeting info organized and act on it quickly.

Turn minutes into tasks

Congratulations! Your meeting was a resounding success. Everyone was engaged and focused and you made some serious headway on several key issues. The meeting minutes have been recorded and shared with the appropriate team members. But if you fail to turn your minutes into actionable tasks, you just wasted a whole lot of time.

Making measurable progress towards your goals requires meeting action items—points discussed during the meeting that are pertinent to the overall objective that must be completed in order to move the goal forward. Every action item should have a specific team member attached to it, along with a description of the expectations for the item and a due date. The action item should be as clear as possible, and you should always check with each team member to make sure it doesn’t impact the rest of their work. Post-meeting follow-ups can help as well, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and understands what’s expected of them and when.

Power tip: Manage your agenda and meeting minutes on the same platform to assign tasks with ease, turning notes into action items faster. If each task has a person attached to it, reminders and alerts will keep your team on track and ensure accountability. Team members can post updates and task details right in the original shared agenda document. 

Make your meetings matter with Evernote

Meetings don’t have to be a major time suck. With the right approach—and the right platform—you can run productive, efficient meetings that generate real results.

“Cool”! That’s the four-letter word we were looking for.

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