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‍How to Have Effective Company Meetings

Interview with Jennifer Barnes, President & Co-Founder, Pro Back Office

by Taryn Johnson, RebL Marketing

We have all heard the joke, “this meeting could have been an email.” In the business world, this statement is rather relatable from everyone. Time is valuable and employees are working hard to accomplish their responsibilities. Leaders must be considerate of their time and only host meetings that are valuable, productive, and collaborative. When it is necessary to get a team or committee together, focus on how to make the most of the engaged time together.

Don’t make these mistakes: Pro Back Office (PBO) President & Co-Founder, Jennifer Barnes recalls poor meeting choices made by an ex-supervisor, “I used to work for a firm that had a meeting every Monday morning at 8am. It was the biggest waste of people's time and it was incredibly unproductive. The firm would actually force people to drive up to a half-hour in traffic each direction to the meeting, so they could give useless updates about the firm. They would pay the team to be there and also for their mileage and drive time. Talk about a waste of resources.” Meetings should not be a waste of resources, but rather, effective strategies for accomplishing company goals.

How do we have effective company meetings?

Have a Set Purpose

First, do you really need to be having this meeting? If the answer is yes, make sure you have a set purpose or goal in mind. What are you trying to accomplish and who needs to be invited? Keep in mind that it may not make sense to invite everyone to a meeting. Invite those who are going to help create engaging conversation, knowing that emails are generally sufficient for updates and status reports.

Barnes shares her opinion on unnecessary meetings, “in my view, meetings aren’t usually necessary if you have a good project management system that holds people accountable. Meetings should be meant to get people on the same page, to brainstorm on creative ideas such as a company tagline or how to restructure a website, or to review data analytics or reports.”

Create an Agenda

An agenda is a great tool to provide structure and keep everyone focused on the purpose of the meeting. When possible, distributing the agenda ahead of time can prepare attendees on what subjects they would like to address or set firm expectations on what will be discussed. Use the agenda to remind everyone at the beginning of the meeting that you value their time and will be sticking to the provided agenda.

Stay on Track

Meetings can prove ineffective when attendees divert from the agenda. According to Barnes, “when the leader lets someone go on too long, or lets the meeting divert in the wrong direction, it can waste an inordinate amount of time.” A good leader knows how to effectively run meetings by keeping everyone on track and redirecting back to the purpose of the meeting. On occasions, decisions will not be made during the meeting time and may need to be continued in private conversations at a later time.

Finish the Meeting with an Action Plan

In order for your goals to be met, it is important that everyone leaves the meeting knowing the next steps or the role they play moving forward. Make sure the room is clear on where everything stands by the end of the meeting and what the follow up process looks like. It may be useful to ask the attendees, “Was this meeting useful today?” If the responses are negative, it can provide valuable insight on changes to be made in the future.

The steps suggested above can go a long way to improving the quality and effectiveness of company meetings. If you are struggling to host efficient meetings, research examples from companies that have great meeting culture.

Barnes learned from the poor experiences she witnessed and decided to take a very different approach. All staff meetings are held on a quarterly basis at PBO. “We have everyone come on a Friday towards the end of the month, when most of our client deadlines have already been accomplished. We serve everyone a quick breakfast beforehand and pay very close attention to keeping the meeting less than an hour and only focusing on the most important things that will help drive culture, motivation and performance.”

Regardless of the purpose of the meeting, make sure people are engaged and listening, and that the meeting follows an agenda and gets to the point quickly. In nothing else, please avoid 8:00 am meetings on a Monday.

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