3 Simple Ways to Make Your Staff Meetings More Focused and Productive

Meetings hold great potential for either getting things done… or wasting everyone’s time and impeding progress.

If you hold meetings too often and with the wrong people in the room, your momentum will be stalled, leaving your team frustrated.

On the other hand, if you hold meetings in the right frequency, with firm focuses and the appropriate stakeholders in attendance, you’ll be empowering your team to get things done.

Regardless of whether you’re convening with students, staff, faculty, external stakeholders, or a mix of all of the above, you need to make sure you run your meetings well.

Here are some tips to work through all of this.

Determine The Need

Before you schedule a meeting, consider whether there is a more efficient way to achieve your goals. Perhaps you shouldn’t hold a meeting after all. 

First, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Would a mass email suffice to alert our team to a simple update? 
  • Could a survey solicit valuable feedback? 
  • Is the information I need possible to obtain via a quick phone call, rather than asking people to gather in person? 
  • Could I set up a project management system to track the progress of my team’s goals?

EAB has a great infographic that serves as a framework for conducting effective meetings — and can help you figure out if one is even necessary at all. It mentions considering the sensitivity of the topic at hand, as perhaps it’ll be better to meet with someone in a one-on-one setting so you can talk privately.

Still, after thinking through these variables, you may conclude that a meeting is indeed necessary. In which case, you’ll want to…

Focus on Goals

You should be thoughtful about who needs to be in the room for your meetings, based on desired outcomes. You may want to foster cross-campus collaborations, in which case,  you should convene the heads of various departments to allow for decisions to be made on the spot. 

Or, if you want to focus on your own initiatives, keep it small. Your colleagues across campus likely won’t mind not being invited, especially if you share relevant details on the meeting’s contents. That way, they’ll be kept in the loop and not feel left out.

Time is also an important consideration here. Make sure you respect everyone’s calendars by keeping the meeting constrained to the starting and ending times you originally set. Keep your expectations realistic, and when in doubt, ere on the short side to keep everyone focused on the task at hand. Folks will likely check out or need to leave if the meeting is too long. 

gif of Daria saying 'can we get on with this? I have some place to go'

With that being said, you know your team best. You may want to plan in some extra time for everyone to process the discussion and feel satisfied with the outcome. Plus, extra time can prevent you from running overtime and making everyone late for their other commitments.

Prior to the meeting, ensure you are clear with everyone about what you hope to achieve. This will help you garner buy-in. You can do this quickly when you send out the invite, as well as at the start of the meeting.

You should also share an agenda in advance,  outlining what will be discussed and for how long, along with any necessary context so that everyone can make informed decisions. This could include any relevant data you’ve compiled — such budget allocations, student survey feedbackstudent involvement data, and more.

As the meeting is happening, make sure someone takes notes. Also, be sure to keep everyone on task, as it’s crucial to achieving your outcome on time. 

You can do this by reminding everyone of how much time you have left to discuss the current agenda item and nudging everyone to move on after the dedicated time has passed.

You must also avoid getting pulled down too many tangents or spending too much time on any given item. You may want to redirect a discussion to be resolved at another time or addressed via other means, such as a survey or email sent out later.

When hosting a meeting, it’s your responsibility to make sure it runs well and that you’re guiding everyone in attendance toward shared goals. Even if you’re not the most senior person in the room, you need to keep everyone on task. This could include requesting that everyone leaves their laptops or tablets at the door, in order to fully commit all their attention to the discussion.

Follow Up

A meeting is only as good as the outcomes it produces. So, even if you run an amazing meeting, it can all fall apart on the follow-through.

After the meeting has ended, it’s wise to send a recap email with action items to everyone who attended. You can also send this to anyone who couldn’t be there and/or should be aware of what was discussed. Giving clear expectations of follow-up responsibilities can help ensure that no momentum is lost after a meeting. Ideally, you should utilize a project-tracking platform (like Asana, Airtable, or Trello) to continually monitor your progress.

You may want to give yourself reminders to check in with everyone about certain deadlines afterward. This may not necessitate another meeting; it could just be individual check-ins via email or phone calls.

All of this advice may seem like a lot to take in, but as long as you work to make maintaining order a consistent habit and give yourself some credit for your progress, you’ll get there in time. 

gif of a team of coworkers sitting around a table and clapping

How do you run effective meetings? Let us know on Twitter @HelloPresence and @HigherEd_Geek.

Dustin Ramsdell

About the author: Dustin is a graduate of the Rutgers University College Student Affairs Ed.M Program. He is a proud nerd and self-affirmed "Higher Ed Geek" who is excited to connect with folks who share his love of deep conversations! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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