How many work-related meetings are on your calendar this week? How many of them are you dreading? Despite how commonplace meetings are in the workplace, very few people know how to run an effective meeting. This is understandable. After all, not many universities offer courses in meeting management, do they?

In my experience, effective meetings share many common attributes. Here’s some insight into these traits and guidance on how you can make the meetings you run and attend more successful and meaningful for those who attend:

    • Practice punctuality. Unless unforeseen, legitimate complications arise, vow to begin and end meetings on time. Doing so will keep everyone accountable to be fully present, as well as appropriately pace their portion of the meeting if they are speaking or presenting.
    • Take good notes. Some people take copious notes, while others barely scratch out a line or two. These differences are normal, but some habits should become universal. For example, when recording action items, don’t just write down what you’re to do, but also what your colleagues are responsible for. This practice maintains accountability and also helps you know where to turn if later you have a question about something someone else is handling. I really like digital note-taking, since it integrates so well with all the work I’m already doing on my computer or phone. Microsoft OneNote makes for a perfect digital notebook, especially because it’s much easier to keep track of than a spiral notepad!
    • Keep participants involved. In general, meetings shouldn’t be passive affairs for attendees. Find ways to keep all participants involved. You might try calling on people out of the blue for their thoughts and input. If it’s a large meeting, consider breaking up into smaller groups to discuss a given topic more thoroughly. To better engage remote attendees, try videoconferencing rather than the traditional audio conference, so that these participants are just as actively involved as everyone else. Solutions like Microsoft Lync make it easy to meet “face-to-face” and also enable desktop-sharing, so that remote participants can follow along with presentations and meeting content.
    • Know when a meeting is needed and when it’s not. Many meetings get called out of habit or precedent, but oftentimes a simple phone conversation or informative e-mail will suffice. You can do away with unnecessary meetings in your workplace by creating an atmosphere of collaboration. Giving employees tools to quickly connect with one another and share information will help accomplish this goal. Many of the functions included in Office 365, for example, help workers communicate and collaborate, in and outside of meetings.

I’m curious what you think of this topic. What are your best practices for conducting effective, even enjoyable, meetings? Do you have any big “no-no’s” when it comes to meetings?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About the Author(s)

Cindy Bates

Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMB's in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.

Vice President, Microsoft SMB