Increasing Meeting Productivity

By: Heather Thornton, Project Manager

Have you ever been in a meeting that seemed to drag on and on, with no end in sight?  Or perhaps you may have participated in a call that was not so much long as it was unproductive?  I was recently involved in a volunteer effort which required weekly conference calls that took place in the evenings.  Although the timing of the calls was perhaps not the most convenient, I was always glad to be involved; and in fact, they became a good learning experience as to what makes a meeting or call more productive.  Perhaps you will find them useful as well.

  1. Always have an agenda. Having a scheduled set of topics, as well as an estimated timeframe for each, will help keep you and your colleagues or volunteers stay on topic and will avoid too many potentially time-wasting
  1. Assign a meeting moderator. Having one person serve as the leader or moderator for each meeting will keep you on track.  If the discussion becomes heated or off-topic, the moderator can help steer attention back to the subject at hand.  You may also find it helpful to assign individuals to speak on each agenda item.
  1. Allow time for participants to broach topics not on the agenda. While it is helpful to have an agenda and to stick to it, you also need to make sure everyone has a chance to speak up and voice their opinions and any concerns or questions they may have.  You may find that this is best done towards the end of the meeting, after the pressing issues have been discussed.
  1. Set a date and time for the next meeting before the end of each meeting. This will allow all participants to plan ahead and accordingly and to adjust their schedules to accommodate the next meeting, if necessary.
  1. Have clear action steps resulting from each meeting. Providing your meeting or call participants with clear action steps, along with a timeframe and person responsible for each, will reiterate the important points discussed, as well as the next steps that should be taken.  Try to send out these actions steps to participants within 24 hours of the meeting, while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
  1. Thank everyone for their time. This may seem obvious, but it should not be overlooked, especially if your meeting is comprised of volunteers.  Acknowledging that time is valuable and that everyone’s involvement is valued is not only a nice thing to do, but it will also help ensure that your volunteers or members know they are appreciated.

Taking into account the hectic schedules and increasing demands on your volunteers’ or members’ time (as well as your own!), the above tips may be helpful to keep in mind as you  plan your future Board meeting or team conference call.