We have all been there: sitting through an inefficient meeting thinking “I could be using this time more productively.” Frequent meetings are one of the realties of the modern workplace, but they do not have to be time-wasters. They should be productive spaces where collaborative work can be accomplished. This is particularly true in the challenging environment of today’s virtual and web-based conferences. Here are 5 strategies for leading successful meetings.

Set the Agenda

Part of being prepared to lead a meeting is to set the agenda beforehand. Your participants will appreciate knowing that the meeting has a plan. If it is appropriate, and ideation is involved, ask your participants for their input on the agenda. Whatever the situation is, you should always circulate the agenda for the meeting in advance. The agenda provides a map for the conversation and can be a touchstone if the discussion begins to wander.

Reflect on the Guest List

Ensure that the colleagues you invite to the meeting have a reason to be there. Each person you invite to a meeting brings a different perspective and can add to the complexity. For your meeting to be most successful, you want the relevant input of everyone and, for this reason, you want them to be connected to the topic, project or initiative.

Use Technology Wisely

First, if you are using technology to present in your meeting, ensure everything is working and running smoothly prior to the meeting. Consider doing a ‘dry run’ just to ensure you are confident with the technology. Your participants may have their own laptops, tablets, or mobile devices, but they should not be surfing the web or checking email while the meeting is happening. For large meetings, you may wish to use technology to engage your audience (such as real-time feedback surveys) but the decision to use interactive technology with your participants should be done carefully and purposefully. Also, keeping the ‘running minutes’ of a meeting using Microsoft Teams apps or Google docs is a smart use of technology.

Lead Timely Meetings Start on Time. End on Time.

As the meeting leader, it is your responsibility to try to ensure that the meeting starts on time and ends on time. Meeting invites that emphasize the start and end time are crucial. Also, it is your responsibility to keep the conversation on track and make sure it does not wander too far off course. Always try to end your meeting 5 minutes before the formal end of the meeting. This will allow for a final question or thought and a quick summation.

Conclude with Action Items

As mentioned above, leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps and the action items. Part of leading a successful meeting is being explicit about who is responsible for which items and, of course, milestones and deadlines.

These strategies should help you lead successful meetings while being collaborative and productive!