How To Have Productive & Time-Effective Group Meetings

Meetings can be 3 things:

• productive

• so-so

• a PAC-Man gobbling up valuable time

When it comes to in-formal meetings, like a few friends coming over to your house for lunch or to visit, that’s something different – more free-flowing, and the format is usually a lot less structured. These beautiful moments usually close sweetly on a bright note.

This post is specifically related to group business/project meetings, whether in-person or online.

As an entrepreneur who’s still building your business, time takes on a different meaning. It’s not the same as a 9-5 job situation where there’s a set fee coming in each month for this-amount-of-hours, like clockwork, with paid vacations and preset holidays. It’s the same 24 hrs used in different ways.

You may have the freedom and “more time,” to design your day, yes – but the assignment of that time and the quality of the activities aligned with that time are directly related to both your wellness and potential income. I mention wellness ’cause it connects to longevity in business and beyond. Many choose entrepreneurship with wellness in mind, so it makes sense to include it here too.

Today’s topic is all about using your time efficiently and enjoying a productive and light GROUP MEETING.

Have you ever gone to a meeting and by the end of it, were soooo exhausted and not even sure about what the next steps were?

Well, let’s kick those kinds of time-gobblers to the curb, and approach group meetings from this point on, with a refreshed attitude and mini-map:

  • Structure – remember to do any necessary research and make relevant notes beforehand, so you have a clear idea about your input (or anything you need to be updated on) at the meeting. Listening is a good starting point, but if you’re leading the session, a document with the project outline, meeting agenda and your notes will come in handy.
  • Speaking of leading the meeting, is it clear who that is? If you’re the freelancer, and everyone else works at the organisation initiating the meeting, listen and learn first unless invited to start. This helped me while freelancing as Project Coordinator on an assignment with U.N Women and as freelance Documentation Specialist with C.O.S.C.A.P. (When joining an already established team, take your queue from the team leader and add your melody to the chorus for a harmonious result.) Everyone invited needs to have a copy of the meeting agenda so they can all understand the purpose of the meeting, and prepare in advance.
    • Timeline: note the start and end time on the agenda and in any group discussions, to set some sort of structure. Everyone can design their day to suit. Try to have a concise but proactive meeting. Take distance into consideration, if it’s an in-person group meeting. (It would be rough on someone to drive and travel through traffic for an hour just for a 15 minute meeting.
  • Time isn’t money, but it is valuable
  • If the core members meet in-person and someone else who’s a distance away logs on to join in, that can still work.) If the meeting was set to end at 11:45am try to stick to this, unless everybody can stay longer. When someone has arranged their day for a set time, it’s not so cool to have them miss something they wouldn’t have – had the meeting started and ended on time.
    • Prepare – print or e-mail/upload any key documents to everyone beforehand. (An introductory group email or networking platform is important.)
    • Have a notepad and pen – just in case.
    • For both in-person and online meetings, ask peeps to please set their phones on silent. Not major, but you might find that everyone takes a breath and the request brings a slight relief that enables them to focus better. Sometimes we just need an invitation to set the phone down for a sec.
    • Right, so I mentioned “listening” earlier up. Linked to this is letting everyone speak, if they’re compelled.
    • Set aside a 5-7 minute Q&A segment near the closing, so anyone can ask for clarity on something mentioned.
    • Ask someone or delegate a note-taker / someone to take the ‘minutes.’ Everyone gets a copy in their inbox after: helpful reference in cases of memories getting bit fuzzy about who said what, or which task was assigned to whom etc. These notes will also be handy at any follow-up meetings, to measure progress or bring up repeat challenges. They’re also a kind of register to log who makes it to meetings.
    • Venue – is the meeting online or in-person? Either way, there’s a location, whether it’s Zoom, Conference call, or in a conference room or cafe. Make sure invitees know when, where, and how to get there. If it’s a physical venue, think about (a) ventilation (b) lighting (c) sound (d) seating (e) parking (+ access for those with mobility challenges) (f) distance (g) designated entrance & any sign-in protocol (h) emergency exit protocol – in any order.
    • Refreshments – for online meetings, it’s not uncommon to see a colleague sipping a cup of tea or guzzling a glass of water in between chats. Funny enough, it’s one of the coolest most relatable things I’ve seen in a minute. (Who knew there are so many other people who love hot drinks too?!) For group meetings like webinars, keep in mind the duration of the meeting, ’cause hunger and the need for a stretch tends to hit at or just after the 1 and 1/2 – 2 hr mark. (A conversation rotation with guests will give each person a moment to adjust in their seat, catch their breath and quietly recharge if needed.) For in-person groups, once it’s in your financial reach light refreshments for meetings that go over 1 and 1/2hrs are always a plus – at the very least, a jug o’ water and some clean cups or a basic tea station.
  • Have a great group meeting next time you’ve got one penciled-in, and feel free to visit again to share how your next one goes.
  • Meeting ‘Minutes’ mentionables:

    project title
    start & end time
    people present
    date, venue
    follow-up duties and task delegations
    queries & solutions
    projected follow-up meeting

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