Few people get excited at the prospect of hosting or attending meetings, but they’re a necessary institution for business success. With everyone’s schedules packed and the number of participants sometimes in the double digits, scheduling meetings can become a real ordeal.
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The Biggest Scheduling Problems
So what are the specific problems that make scheduling meetings such a headache, and how can you fix them?
1. Negotiating the Time and Date
By far the biggest problem is working with your other participants to choose a date and time that works for everyone. You can recommend a day, but find out Johnny’s out that day. Or you can recommend a time, then get a flurry of confused emails asking you what time zone that time is meant to be for.
The typical approach to scheduling meetings is to use trial and error, making repeated suggestions for a meeting time until one is finally settled on. However, this wastes significant time and may not leave you with the optimal choice. Instead, it’s better to use a calendar app like Calendly, which allows you to select your availability, then display it for others to select their own meeting times.
2. Finding the Right Participants
Next, you may have trouble pinpointing and recruiting the right participants for your meeting. Each new person you add is going to spend the length of the meeting participating, which can quickly escalate the man-hour costs of the meeting if you invite others indiscriminately.
On the other hand, if you invite too few people, you may miss out on some important perspectives and ideas. There’s no clear decision-making rubric for success here. Instead, focus on the absolute necessities for participation, and only invite others if you predict the meeting will become substantially better with their participation.
3. Choosing the Right Length
The go-to length for a meeting is usually an hour, but there’s evidence to suggest that long meetings only take more time because more time is allotted for them. If you condense a would-be hour-long meeting down to 15 minutes, you’ll likely see the same breadth of topics covered, in a similar amount of depth. However, you’ll cut out significant filler, delays, and other interruptions.
When setting the meeting time, always choose less than you think you’ll need. Choosing more may artificially inflate the meeting length, wasting time.
4. Establishing a Location
How busy is your office? Do you need to book conference rooms in advance? Do you even have an office to host the meeting in?
Scheduling a time for a location is another challenge, but you can improve it by blocking out regular chunks of time, or scheduling meetings to be short enough so that they can be done without a formally designated space.
You might even consider doing “walking meetings” for small groups of people, especially internally.
5. Guaranteeing Attendance
You might have to reschedule a meeting if not everyone can attend—but how can you guarantee attendance?
Obviously, you can’t, but you can encourage more accurate RSVPs and higher follow-throughs on commitments by giving your attendants more reminders and opportunities to update their responses. For example, you can use Google Calendar to prompt your meeting attendants that the meeting is coming up. This will give them a chance to change their RSVP if necessary.
Other Tips for Successful Meetings
Just because you got your meeting on everyone’s calendar and plan on them all showing up doesn’t mean you’re going to have a successful meeting. You can increase your chances of success with these additional tips:
Have an Agenda
Don’t start a meeting unless you have a formal agenda prepared. What’s the main goal of the meeting? How are you going to achieve that?
In addition, recording and documenting meetings is as important as the decisions of the meeting itself. You can find a meeting minutes sample online that you can guide from to make your meeting more productive and your meeting objectives clear.
Designate a Leader to Stay on Point
One person at the meeting should be in charge of keeping the meeting on task and ensuring that you eventually get to your final goal.
Encourage Participation from All Sides
You invited these attendants because they have something valuable to provide. If nobody ends up talking, your meeting could be a waste, so make sure everyone participates.
Summarize and Distribute
At the end of the meeting, recap the most important points and distribute those points however you see fit. Usually this takes the form of a follow-up email to all meeting attendees.
Don’t assume your meetings are effective because they work for you. Ask everyone for feedback so you can improve.
A Final Word
Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time, nor do they have to be a pain to set up. If you use these tips to organize and execute your meetings, you’ll see a near-instant increase in both participation and effectiveness.