No one wants to attend useless, boring meetings. And even though The Independent recently declared the top desk accessory of 2015 to be blue ribbons with “I survived another meeting that should have been an email,” you don’t need to use your ninja skills to avoid getting sucked into one. Meetings are actually important. When they are well-conducted, meetings build trust and relationships within your team and allow for valuable feedback, learning, and improvements that can’t be accomplished through digital written communication. So how can we kick-butt and maximize the value of every meeting?

Well, Young Grasshopper,

Here’s a checklist that you can use as a guideline:

 

1. Agenda

Before you fly, you must walk. Set an agenda for every single meeting. Keep your agenda focused. Only include topics that are actionable. Before placing a topic on your meeting agenda, walk through what needs to get done as a result. Do you need to generate a list of ideas from a brainstorming session? Do you need to identify tasks and decide who to assign them to? Do you need clarification from your team about any data or reports they’ve submitted? Don’t put a person’s name on the agenda without deciding what you want them to talk about. Remember, business meetings aren’t solely to talk shop. Each meeting should have a clear purpose in moving your business forward.

2. Defined Length of Time

Wax on, wax off. Every meeting should have both a defined start and end time. After putting your agenda together, decide how much time you will allot to accomplish your meeting purpose. This will help you be efficient and stay on task. Many meetings have a start time, but don’t indicate what time they plan to end. This is dangerous because meeting leaders aren’t sure how long to stay on each topic and when to move on to the next point. Having a set meeting timeline helps move your meeting along.

3. Attendee List

You will find only what you bring in. Make sure that everyone who needs to be in your meeting has actually been invited. This also applies to when the meeting time or location changes. Make sure everyone knows! It may seem obvious, but this is a common detail to overlook. The opposite is also true. Review your attendee list and make sure everyone who is invited has a specific reason for attending. Does that person really need to be there? Will their attendance help them do their job better? Meetings can be distracting and interrupt a person’s work flow. If you can’t clearly identify the value in someone’s attendance, they probably don’t need to be there.

4. Key takeaways and Action Items

Do or do not, there is no try. What key takeaways do you want every attendee to walk away with by the end of the meeting? If someone who didn’t attend the meeting were to ask what the meeting was about and what information they missed, would your attendees all give the same answer? Make sure that everyone’s on the same page moving forward. Use your meeting to align everyone’s expectations on the team and have a clear list of action items. All action items should have three things identified: 1) what task needs to get done; 2) who is responsible for getting the task done; 3) when the task’s due date is.

If each of your meetings have these four components, you will have set a good foundation for conducting a meeting worth going to. To paraphrase Mr. Miyagi: Woman who catch fly with chopstick (or conduct productive meeting) accomplish anything.

 

For the Solopreneur

Even as a solopreneur, you can use this meeting checklist while running your business. Do you need to set aside strategy planning or brainstorming sessions for yourself? Determine your agenda, give yourself a time limit, decide whether there are any other people that you should call or meet with. Just because you are the only person running your business, doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to learn from other peers, mentors, and experts in the field (The Grit & Virtue community is a great place to network and make those connections!). Lastly, make sure you know what your exact next steps are as a result of your meeting and give yourself a deadline. This will move you forward towards your mission.

 

Become a Meeting Ninja

  1. List ALL the type of meetings you currently hold in your business. Even if you’re a solopreneur and don’t have coworkers, list the sessions you set aside to plan for projects, brainstorm, get organized, etc. These can still count as “meetings”.
  2. Go through the meeting checklist for each of your meetings. Does every single meeting have a clearly defined purpose and agenda? Are you adhering to a specified length of time? Are the right people attending your meetings? Are action items being recorded and do attendees leave meetings knowing exactly what they’re responsible for?
  3. Take time to evaluate your list of meetings. After completing the meeting checklist for each meeting, are there any changes you need to make? Identify the changes and follow through with them.

Discussion Question:
What techniques have you seen work in productive meetings? Have any tips to share? Let’s us know below!

Adrienne Shen
Adrienne Shen

Adrienne is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves to travel with her husband, try new foods, and learn new things. She finds beauty in diversity, in taking risks, and being adventurous. She loves her dog Snowy and is addicted to coffee.

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