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How to Make the Most Out of Meetings

With a limited number of hours in each day, most of us are looking for ways to be more productive. It can be 3:00 in the afternoon before we really have time to dig into the projects we plan to accomplish on a given day. Poorly organized and executed meetings are often to blame.

You can’t control how others run their meetings, but there are simple, practical things that you can do to ensure that the next meeting you host is efficient and productive.

Know why you’re meeting, with whom, and how.

Let’s face it, most meetings really are necessary. Occasionally, though, there are times when a meeting really isn’t required. The first step is determining if a meeting is truly needed and what you plan to accomplish. Once you have clear goals, identify the key individuals who must be invited. Then, decide if what you need to accomplish has to be done face to face or can be done via a conference call. Allowing attendees to call in from remote locations — even from their office down the hall — makes it more convenient for everyone.

Set an agenda. And stick to it.

Every meeting has a purpose — if it doesn’t, there’s no point in meeting — so make sure that all of the attendees are on the same page before the meeting begins. Create an agenda in advance and circulate it amongst key players to generate feedback. This will ensure that everyone knows why you’re meeting and what you hope to accomplish. Send any updated agendas prior to the meeting and have additional copies on hand in case attendees forget theirs.

You want the meeting to be as productive as possible, so use the agenda as your guide. Stay on the topics you’ve identified and insist that everyone else does, too. If issues arise that require further discussion, but are not directly related to the topic you’re meeting about, suggest having a conversation at a later time.

Make it unplugged.

You won’t accomplish much if half of the people at the conference table are checking their iPhones or responding to emails on their laptops. Ask attendees to leave their computers and cell phones at their desks, and schedule breaks at strategic intervals during longer meetings so that they can check their messages. And, of course, if you’re asking others to give up their gadgets while you meet, be sure to do the same.

Watch the clock.

Start your meeting on time — even if all of the attendees haven’t arrived. Be sure to stay on task with discussions and keep small talk to a minimum. Don’t feel bad about cutting people off if their comments go on too long. Respectfully thank them for their input and let them know that it’s time to move on. A visible timer never hurts to have when you’re instituting a hard clock. It’ll be great for those magical meeting buzzer beater moments, too!

If the meeting is a long one, schedule breaks when appropriate. And remember, starting on time means ending on time. Everyone will appreciate that.

Noteworthy follow up.

Great meetings promote a healthy discussion level, which results in decisions. Invite an administrative assistant to take notes or ask one of the attendees to keep a record of the conversation and any decisions reached. These will come in handy after the meeting, as details can be lost when a lot of ground is covered. Afterward, follow up with a short email.

Thank everyone for their participation, answer any questions and provide any additional information requested during the meeting. This is also a great time to send along the notes from the meeting to ensure that everyone is clear on what was decided and why.

Consistency is key.

Once you develop a reputation for holding productive, efficient meetings, people will come to expect that same level of professionalism. As a result, you may notice that people are more energized when attending your meetings. Very few of us enjoy feeling like our time is being wasted. Knowing that we’re attending a meeting that will actually lead to results makes us more likely to attend and participate at a higher level. You may even notice others in your company employing some of your tactics to improve their own meetings.

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Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.