Some people adore workplace meetings as a chance to communicate ideas, collaborate on projects, or simply interact with their coworkers. But for many, workplace meetings can be a source of stress. They can represent a momentum-killer and slow down one’s work process or cause anxiety about what the meeting might be about. In the world of remote work, this stress can be tenfold. After all, if you’re working in your pajamas, there better be a good reason for you to turn on the camera.

MIT Sloan’s Steven G. Rogelberg’s research suggests that a mere 50% of meeting time is used efficiently, and that number plummets even further for remote meetings. Luckily, Rogelberg believes it’s easy to host more efficient meetings.

“The good news is that there’s an evidence-based path forward based on more than 20 years of research on meetings and teams. Meeting science has yielded key insights that can be incredibly helpful to meeting leaders, especially during this challenging time that is marked by an increase in remote meetings.” –Rogelberg

Meetings are a great way to get your team motivated and cohesive and to complete chief objectives, but it’s important to make your meetings efficient. We’ll follow Business Made Simple’s model of what to do before, during, and after your meeting so you can host the most impactful meetings.

Before the meeting

The most vital step before hosting a meeting is to ask yourself whether something even needs to be a meeting. We’ve all experienced a “meeting” that could have been a quick email or impromptu conversation.

Don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting, recommends Workrowd. For example, if you’re just sharing information rather than having a discussion, an email can suffice. You want to respect everyone’s time.

Once you’ve determined you do need to host a meeting, make sure you invite the people that need to be there. Overcrowding is the enemy of hosting an efficient meeting, especially in a remote setting. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggests the “two-pizza” rule for hosting meetings, meaning if two pizzas wouldn’t feed everyone in the meeting, you’ve invited too many people. This isn’t a direct amount, as I could put away a decent amount of pizza if pressed, but the concept is wise. Invite only those who need to be there, and take minutes that can be sent to anyone else.

Of course, to keep to these minutes you’ll want to create an agenda to stick to. Using an agenda lets employees know what the meeting is about and makes it easier to stick to a timetable. Business Made Simple also suggests creating an overall objective. Without trying to achieve a tangible result, attendees can feel that their time was wasted. If people know the purpose of the meeting and the goals to be met, it makes the time feel much more valuable.

During the meeting

Once the meeting begins, you need to keep things focused and efficient. Make sure to have someone taking notes to keep those outside the meeting in the loop. A good set of notes provides an excellent reference, but without a dedicated note-taker, you may miss important details.

“Without a designated note-taker, everyone has pieces of the meeting notes, but no one has the full picture.”-Business Made Simple

If you’re leading the meeting, you need to know how to facilitate and keep things flowing well. Recall that you need to respect peoples’ time. A facilitator should know when to change topics, circle back to important conversation points, and limit small talk. This keeps the meeting on track and minimizes the amount of downtime. By previously creating an agenda and objective, the facilitator’s job is much easier once the meeting begins.

Conversely, allow catchup time to make sure everyone is on the same page. Owl Lab’s Katherine Boyarsky suggests giving some time at the beginning of the meeting for people to briefly chat and introduce themselves, especially in remote settings. This not only provides an opportunity for workers to connect with one another but increases their visibility. A seen worker is more likely to participate and feel that their voice is heard while discussing crucial topics. Balancing the social factor is tricky but necessary to host a good meeting.

After the meeting

Just because the meeting is over doesn’t mean the fun is over. Some of the most important work comes once everyone has gone back to their desk or resumed their normal duties.

Hopefully, you were able to get good notes. By having a dedicated note-taker during the meeting, you’ll be able to easily reference action points and get your plans in gear. Follow up immediately while things are fresh to keep the momentum rolling, writes Business Made Simple. By keeping your meeting solution-oriented, you can start taking steps to implement your chosen solutions. Workrowd believes that even if you don’t settle on a single solution, narrowing down your options is still a win.

Because you took good notes, you’ll want to get the meeting summary to those that need them. This can take many forms: a direct copy of the note-taker’s notes, a simple summary paragraph or bulleted list, or a recording if the meeting was virtual.

Finally, after your meeting, be open to feedback on how to improve. Not every meeting will run smoothly, and you won’t always meet your objective. People get distracted or may be having a bad day, and that’s okay. The Enterprisers Project’s David Egts suggests to always validate the value of a meeting and look for areas to improve.

Wrap up

Meetings are necessary to create optimized workplace solutions and to collaborate with your team, and sometimes you need to directly look at someone to get the best feedback. But all meetings aren’t created equally, and not every conversation needs to be an official ‘on-the-docket’ meeting. By preparing for every step of your meeting, you can be sure to get the best and most efficient results. Want to make sure a meeting is the right call? Atlassian offers a helpful flowchart to see if your needs are best met by a meeting here.

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