Updated: Apr 25, 2019
“Oh wow, I have so much work time that I wish I spent more time in meetings!" ... Said no person, ever!
Okay, well, maybe someone has, but they were clearly having a momentary lapse of sanity! If meeting management is the bane of your existence, then just keep reading. We can all agree that we spend way too much time in meetings. Meeting management is complicated these days, and mismanaged meetings waste your executive’s time, focus, and energy. Successful meeting management doesn't "just happen." It is a skill that is developed and practiced. Start using these tips, and you will be your company's Meeting Management Guru in no time!
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know … So Just Ask!
Benchmarking is vital so you can understand best practices and the tools that make managing meetings easy, efficient, and productive. This is a perfect opportunity to benchmark with other assistants or team members on best practices, tools, and technology. Find out who does meetings really well in your company and then ask them to share best practices with you. Also, take time to share your own "pain points" concerning meeting management and get a clear understanding of what kind of structure and tools they use to ensure successful meetings.
"Manage the process NOT the content!"
Use Centralized Collaboration Tools
Managing meeting agendas, invites, content, decks, meeting minutes and tracking actionable items can overwhelm the most seasoned professional. When you are required to juggle a lot of moving pieces, it is essential to avoid gathering agenda topics, content, deck versions, and minutes via email. This causes unnecessary email traffic that can cause mistakes to happen and is inefficient. Best practice is to manage thru centralized collaboration tools like OneNote, SharePoint, Google Drive or other cloud-based applications. This is a crucial component to managing the process and not the content.
Manage Decks in Minutes & Not Hours We have all received those last minute slides or decks that were a hot mess. And of course, you received it 1 hour before the meeting begins. Someone didn't use the company format, there are 12 different fonts, someone else tried to type 15 paragraphs on one page, and someone used Smart Art really, really, wrong! Your immediate reaction is to cry, close your computer, suddenly get sick for the day, and start your morning all over tomorrow. Meeting Management Gurus know how to format slides quickly using themes, styles, layout tools, and master slides and can confidently transform decks seamlessly within minutes... and look like a rock star doing it!
Stay On Task & On Time Have a plan to keep the meeting on task and on time. Practice how to regain control of the meeting if a presenter is going too long and no amount of visual cues or flailing of arms is getting their attention. Or the team falls down a rabbit hole ... a very Alice-in-Wonderland kind of rabbit hole into another world of topics and conversation that does not align to the meeting purpose or goal. Taking charge of a meeting is no easy task ... You have to find the perfect balance between professionalism and graciously prompting the team to get back on track. I suggest for you to practice how you will handle these kinds of situations.
You can say something things like:
"Sorry to interrupt, but I need to give a time check. We are 5 minutes over our scheduled time, would you like to give a 1-minute takeaway before we move on?
"This is a great topic, but we have a few more items on our agenda that are critical. I will schedule a follow-up meeting this week to pick up where we left off."
Set Expectations & Eliminate Confusion MM Guru's know that confusion is wasted time. Confusion eats away at productivity, so they make a habit of eliminating it altogether. Kick off every meeting with a quick review of the meeting's purpose, housekeeping statements, and agenda review. Don't forget to close out the meeting with a quick summary of the next steps. Share the meeting structure and expectations with presenters ahead of time. (Example: I will give you a visual cue when you have 2 minutes left. If you miss the visual prompt, then I will provide a verbal time check.) Clearly identify the meeting format (in person, remote, call only, virtual meeting only, video, etc.). Also, make sure to provide specific directions if you plan on using technology that is outside of the norm. Use 1-click formatting for conference bridge numbers and addresses. This allows attendees to utilize mobile devices to assist with directions and dialing into meetings without having to manually enter a conference bridge passcode while they are on the go.