Make Your Meetings More Effective

February 29, 2016

How many hours have you wasted in disorganized, ineffective meetings this year? If you’re like most freelancers, it’s probably an embarrassingly large number.

Between clients, creative partners and even your own meetings – the inefficiencies add up. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it; a client is simply scatterbrained and wants to ramble for far too long.

But even when you aren’t the meeting host, there are things that you can do to make a meeting more effective. It all depends on your dedication to the cause.

When held properly, a meeting can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.

Since that’s not the case for most of you out there, let’s look over these tips for getting the most out of your meetings.

1. Determine Your Objectives

A clear objective is like a beacon that guides every facet of the meeting. And determining these objectives is the most important part of this entire process. You can do this by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  1. What are the goals of your meeting? This is a succinct goal that outlines the knowledge, insight and motivation you want everyone to receive.
  2. Who needs to attend? Bring only the key people required to the meeting; no more, no less.
  3. How much time do you need? If you structure things efficiently and have a clear agenda in place, you may need less time than you think.
  4. Who will be the moderator? This is usually the meeting organizer, but it should be clear who is running the meeting and has the ability (and onus) to set and enforce the ground rules.

Having a clear understanding of the goals, attendees, moderator and time requirement is the firm foundation on which to build every meeting.

If you aren’t the host, reach out and ask them these questions. If they haven’t considered it, your prompting will make them, which can result in a much greater efficiency.

2. Establish Ground Rules

Every meeting should have firmly established ground rules. Naturally, each meeting will be a bit different. So, while there aren’t clear-cut rules for each meeting, here are some you can consider implementing:

  • No snacks allowed. When you’re wanting a quick, effective meeting, this can get really distracting – especially if you’re attempting to have a lot of contribution and conversation. (Exception: When you’re having a lengthy meeting and people need to eat or drink.)
  • No technology. Unless it’s strictly being used for the meeting at hand, leave the technology alone. It can steal focus, which will reduce the overall efficiency.
  • No talking. Casual, off-topic chatter is easy to fall into. However, it’s important that conversation stay relevant and focused on the meeting agenda. If chit-chat starts, redirect the group back to the agenda as quickly as possible.

These three basic rules are good tenants for most meetings. But, again, you should use discretion before implementing any hard and fast rules.

3. Stay On Time and On Task

If you’re not the meeting host, you don’t have a lot of power here. However, you do have power over yourself. Respect everyone’s time as well as your own by being punctual.

If you are the meeting host, emphasize the importance of punctuality to attendees. There are two main currencies in business: money and time. At the end of the day, punctuality all about showing respect to the time people have dedicated to spend at your meeting.

That means both starting on time and ending on time.

Create a public agenda for the meeting, and don’t deviate. If sideline issues pop up, make a note to address at the end if time remains – or to schedule a separate meeting to address the new issues.

If someone arrives late, don’t fall into the trap of recapping for them. Instead, briefly welcome them (if appropriate) and inform them that there will be meeting notes they can review to get caught up on what they missed.

4. Have Someone Document the Meeting

Designate someone to summarize objectives that are discussed, resolved, assigned, or otherwise addressed. The documentation should include all pertinent who, what, where, when and why’s the meeting covered.

If you don’t have access to an assistant (which includes most freelancers), you’ll need to do this yourself. However, you shouldn’t be worried about taking notes during the meeting. You’ll want to be present to engage in conversation.

Instead, record the meeting then listen later to take notes.

Share the minutes with everyone who attended so that no one forgets who was assigned to what, etc. If any follow-up are required, these notes will make it easier to streamline those sessions in advance.

Another tip is to send out the notes within 24-hours (the same day if possible), while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. This keeps the momentum going and ensures everyone is on the same page.

5. Review Important Action Items

I don’t think anyone is more forgetful than busy freelancers. That’s not a knock on intelligence, it’s just a simple conclusion based on how much you always have buzzing in your brain.

Small business owners get to hire, delegate and run teams. Meanwhile, freelancers have to be every department of the business at once. That’s why it’s so important to set up systems that help you remember all the details thrown at you each day.

Meetings are no exception.

At the end of every meeting, you should always review any important action items that have been assigned. Make sure you clarify your expectations on due dates and the format of any expected deliverables.

This ensures that you and the client are on the right page and have the same expectations. Because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing more frustrating than when your client has a different set of expectations than you understood.

6. Harness the Power of Technology

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With all the power we have in technology, there’s no reason why any of us should ever struggle through an unproductive meeting. A quick search will yield a plethora of tools. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Convene: Streamline boardroom meetings by keeping important documentation in a secure cloud for members to access before, during and after.
  • GoToMeeting: Host virtual meetings from anywhere in the world with this powerful software. Tons of great features that make things easy.
  • Less Meeting: Create simplified agendas that keep you accountable. And make sure things get done post-meeting with their automated follow-up feature.

You can either make technology your friend or enemy – it all depends on how you use it. Many blame tech for their lack of productivity. But it can serve as a truly life-changing force if you use it for good instead of evil.

Bottom Line

Every good meeting achieves its desired purpose or moves you closer to a desired outcome.

Properly structured and managed meetings leaves attendees walking away feeling accomplished and productive. It’ll be good for business morale, but it’s also just good business.

How much time have you wasted on unproductive meetings the past year? Share a tip in the comments that you plan to implement in the next week to increase productivity.

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.