Part three, the last in our series on conducting better meetings, focuses on what happens after the meeting ends to ensure results are solidified. This stage is all about follow up and follow through. I like the analogy of a golf or baseball swing where the swing is incomplete without forward motion all the way through after connecting with the ball. This is a much more effective swing, ensuring the ball’s trajectory stays on track, and the same is true for meetings.
Effective follow through takes very little time, perhaps even less than meeting preparation, but goes a long way to ensuring meaningful results.
Summarize Action Items
Assuming the last ten minutes of the meeting were used well to wrap up and assign tasks (see Part 2), this should be quick and easy. Make a simple summary of outcomes to be completed, responsible parties, any reminder dates or check-in points, and final deadlines. I like to do three things with this information:
- Remind the responsible parties individually via a simple email
- Remind all participants via meeting minutes (see below)
- Add any reminders and deadlines I care about remembering to my “waiting for” list and/or calendar
Also, be sure to add any action items assigned to you to your own to-do list or calendar, along with any future reminders or check-ins on actions assigned to others. Lead by example.
Prepare and Distribute Meeting Minutes
If you are responsible for preparing meeting minutes, aim to do so within 48 hours of the meeting. This keeps the meeting fresh enough for people to get appropriate actions on their to-do lists and remember what they mean! If someone else is responsible for the minutes, you, as the meeting leader, should ensure they get them to you and/or participants within the same timeframe. Be sure to send the action items information when you send the minutes. Also, minutes need not be overly complicated, word-for-word summaries of the meeting. A simple bullet list of key highlights and outcomes of the discussion is usually more than sufficient (and much more likely to actually be read!).
Review the Meeting
Finally, take a few minutes to review the meeting for overall effectiveness and improvement opportunities. A few things to consider in your review:
- Did the meeting achieve its objectives?
- Did the participants maintain focus and stay on topic?
- Was the agenda effective?
- Did we use other approaches to solving problems than just discussion?
- Were the right participants present in the correct roles?
- Are there any obvious areas for improvement?
This can be very informal alone in your office, or, for bigger meetings or team/Board retreats, can be done via participant surveys, which you can review later. Don’t skip this step…it only takes about five minutes and there is almost always room to improve.
We’ve had a good three-part journey through ideas for more effective meetings. We started with the need for 10-15 minutes of preparation time before the meeting to be clear about the purpose, objectives, participants, and the agenda. We looked at different ways, other than typical discussion, to focus our meeting and work on the objectives. And we discussed the importance of a few minutes’ follow through after the meeting to ensure the value isn’t lost.
These are fairly simple, straight-forward tasks that can lead to exponential improvements in our meetings. I encourage you to invest these few minutes in preparing, focusing, and following through, and I wish you many happy and productive meetings from here forward.
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