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Save Money by Improving Meetings

We’ve all been in meetings that have felt like a waste of time. But they could actually be wasting more than just that. According to The State of Meetings Report 2019 published by Doodle, a time management platform, poorly organized meetings will cost the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Switzerland a combined total of over US$563 billion dollars in 2019. 

Based on interviews and analysis of the 19 million meetings arranged via the platform globally, Doodle has found that professionals spend two hours per week in unnecessary meetings. As in-house counsel, you’re not only in meetings with your legal department, you’re also scheduling time with the business, PR, and HR functions, to name a few, to accomplish projects and tasks. However, if the meetings you’re in aren’t effective, you’re losing out on time to do other important tasks and could be weakening internal and external client relationships in the process.

But what makes a meeting bad? According to Forbes, lack of clear intention, wrong participants, ineffective communication, and no follow-up. Professionals in Doodle’s report listed “talking about nothing” as the most unproductive meeting quality.

Make sure your meetings don’t fall into this category. Learn how to have a productive, effective, and efficient meeting — from start to finish.

Before the meeting

Have an agenda

Agendas can set an effective tone for your meeting. Create an agenda that outlines the purpose, objectives, and meaningful topics or activities. The purpose should answer “Why is this meeting needed?” and the objective should answer “What are the expected outcomes of this meeting?”

When deciding on topics, ask yourself how they will contribute to accomplishing your objective. Organize your discussion items in order of priority and assign them a time limit. Eighty percent of interviewees for the Doodle report stated that a clear agenda and objective make a good meeting. Try ACC’s general meeting agenda template to start your planning.

Invite the right participants

When sending the invite, it’s important to determine who to include in the meeting and when to have it. Choose participants who will have clear roles and are tied to the outcomes you have identified. Consider that Doodle reported that most professionals prefer morning and face-to-face meetings.

Provide agenda and prep materials

Send pre-meeting reading materials and the agenda within the invite. By giving participants these documents beforehand, you are freeing up meeting time for discussion and deciding rather than updating and explaining. However, be realistic about the time needed review the materials — your colleagues may not respond kindly to being asked to read a 31-page report the day before the meeting.

Prepare visual aids in advance

If you will be using any visual aids, like PowerPoints, videos, or images, prepare them beforehand. Also, arrive at the meeting early to set up your technology if you will be presenting on a shared screen. This will help you avoid delaying the start of the meeting with set up or troubleshooting.

During the meeting

Preview the agenda

Begin the meeting by walking everyone through the agenda. Have each person who will be speaking on or leading a discussion item give a brief overview of the what and why of their topic. For example, what is the project or initiative that will be discussed and why are they presenting it? Typical reasons include giving updates, seeking feedback, or troubleshooting.

Assign a notetaker

Select your notetaker during the meeting to record key discussion and action items. Ideally, this person should not be the person leading the meeting.

Encourage participation

As the meeting leader, your role includes facilitating the discussion. Aim to establish an environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing. This can be accomplished by reading the room, focusing on body language and participants who may need encouragement to share ideas.

Take note of who looks engaged, those who are reserved, and who is waiting to speak. To bring out those who are reluctant to share, ask high impact questions: What have we learned from this project? How will this affect our work? Why are we doing it this way? Is there anything we missed? After much back and forth discussion, pause to clarify and summarize key points to make sure everyone understands.

Stay on schedule

You must also keep an eye on the time. Refer to the time limits you’ve allotted to each discussion topic during the meeting. If the conversation is going over the time for a specific topic, decide whether to continue the conversation and table a lower priority topic for later, or stop the discussion and move on to the next item. 

End the meeting (on time) by assigning action items and deciding which, if any, items need to be discussed later.

After the meeting

Follow up for success

Effective meetings don’t end when the meeting is over. Follow-up is a necessary step. After the meeting, send out action items and key discussion notes to participants. Make sure to include due dates and set Outlook reminders for yourself or others. If your notetaker recorded notes on the agenda, you can send out the “updated” agenda so attendees can refer to topics discussed in addition to action items.

Seek feedback

After the meeting is also an ideal time to seek feedback. Ask co-workers if they felt the meeting was productive, if not, ask why.

Final thoughts

Use these steps to lead well-organized meetings that have clear a purpose, the right people present, good discussion, and follow-through. And in the process, make a dent in the billions lost to inefficient meetings annually.

A summarized list of these tips can be found in ACC’s Efficient Meeting Checklist

About the Author

Danielle Maldonado is the editorial coordinator for the Association of Corporate Counsel.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.