Are you using meetings the wrong way?

by Katy Beloof

How many times have you walked out of a meeting and realized that no decisions were made, no action steps planned, and really, nothing was accomplished? While meetings are essential for collaboration and making critical decisions quickly, many meetings are unproductive debates or status updates that don’t achieve anything.

Before you schedule your next meeting, ask these five questions to ensure you’re using meetings the right way.

1. Do You Need to Meet?

The first question to ask is whether a meeting is the best way to accomplish what you need to get done. Do you need to disseminate information, provide or receive status updates, or get executive approval on the latest stage of your project? If so, can you do so without calling a meeting?

With Smartsheet, you can do all of these things without gathering your colleagues for a meeting. Share information with sheets and dashboards, automatically request status updates, send approval requests to key stakeholders and executives automatically, and automate status update reports to be sent to key stakeholders on a regular basis. Organizing your information and automating your processes can help you cut down on meeting time, freeing up hours to tackle new initiatives and innovate.

If you decide you do need a meeting to achieve your objective, such as facilitating a discussion that results in a decision, or helping your team discover better ways to work with one another, continue with the questions below to make the most of your time.

2. How Can Everyone Best Prepare for the Meeting?

Once you’ve decided that it’s important to hold a meeting, ask yourself how everyone can best prepare. Define your objectives and let attendees know what they are ahead of time so everyone knows what’s expected of them as well as the desired outcome of the meeting. Send review materials ahead of time — including reports, relevant dashboards, and briefs — so attendees show up prepared and ready to provide input and take action.

3. Is Everyone Prepared for the Meeting?

There’s no point for someone to attend a meeting unless they are going to actively participate in the discussion. If attendees aren’t prepared for the discussion, with potential questions and thoughts, much of the meeting is wasted getting up to speed.

If you share meeting materials through Smartsheet, whether that’s a report, a dashboard, or supporting documents attached to a row, you can use Activity Log to see who has downloaded or taken a look at the documents you’ve shared before your meeting. If your team hasn’t looked at the materials, consider postponing your meeting until everyone is prepared.

Related: 7 Ways to Free up Time for Deep Work

4. What Action Do You Need to Take in Your Meeting?

The purpose of every meeting should be to accomplish a specific action or objective. When objectives aren’t clear, attendees leave without clear next steps or a sense of what was accomplished during the meeting time.

As you prepare attendees for your meeting, let them know what you hope to accomplish in the meeting. Restate this purpose at the beginning of your meeting, and articulate the outcome as your meeting concludes.

5. What Happens After the Meeting?

Since the purpose of business meetings is to drive outcomes, you want to make sure that any decisions made in a meeting are followed up with and acted upon in a timely manner. You may want to consider asking someone to focus on capturing key points throughout the meeting, documenting the decisions made, and identifying action items for follow up, who is responsible for each, and when they need to be completed.

Once the meeting is over, the moderator should review the notes taken, and summarize key items decided and next steps to be sent to the group. Send a follow-up, including the action items, to everyone involved. Tracking action items in a sheet in Smartsheet can be a good way to keep everything organized and in one place, rather than sending a series of emails that could get lost in inboxes.

The Best Way to Move Work Forward

Meetings aren’t going anywhere. But they don’t have to take up the majority of your time at work. You can help reduce the time wasted in meetings by planning and facilitating action-oriented meetings that move work forward and have a greater impact on the business.

Not only will you free up time for yourself to spend on more creative endeavors to spark innovation in your organization, you’ll free up others’ time to do the same.

Want to learn more about how to master meetings? Download our latest e-book to learn more.