In this episode we’ll discuss ways to master meetings, in particular leading meetings. You can also master meetings as an attendee – and we’ll talk about that in a separate episode next time – but this one refers to mastery from the meeting leader’s perspective.
If there’s one thing in life you can be sure of, it’s meetings. And as you know they’re a huge part of your engineering career. We spend so much time in meetings that how each meeting is run has a big effect – on our schedules, our productivity, our learning, and our advancement.
If you’re the one whose meeting it is, you have an objective you need to accomplish, you want your invitees to attend and participate, and you want an outcome that meets the objective. But you’re not going to get what you want if you don’t follow a few meeting leadership basics.
So today we’ll go over my 4 steps to better meeting outcomes. Because not only will they help you run more efficient and effective meetings but they’ll also help you, as a woman engineer, step up your leadership game and with it your credibility and recognition.
At the same time your meeting attendees will appreciate that they are informed, prepared, and included.
There are, of course, a very wide variety of meetings. So I’m generalizing a bit on this topic and sometimes referring to the ideal case. Nevertheless, there are 4 basic steps that will help you as the meeting leader to get better outcomes from your meeting.
4 Steps to Better Meeting Outcomes
The 4 steps to better meeting outcomes are: Know the Objective, Have an Agenda, Manage the Time, and Capture the Results. These steps are logical, straightforward, and simple – and most effective when used systematically and consistently.
- Know the Objective
Determine a clear purpose and objective for your meeting. Make sure the objective is achievable. And make sure a meeting is needed to achieve it.
Also, communicate your objective to your invitees by sending it out with the agenda. Ensure your invitees are tied to the purpose and objective. In other words, tell invitees why they need to be there and have an idea of what you want them to do. Invite all those who need to be there and none of those who don’t.
- Have an Agenda
Compose a real agenda with topics and time frames. (A simple list of thoughts or ideas is not an agenda.)
Specify purposeful topics that are understandable to attendees. Allot appropriate time frames to each topic to allow adequate discussion time and keep the meeting on schedule. If breaks, Q&A or discussion times are needed, make sure they are included on your agenda.
Send the agenda out ahead of time so people can plan ahead. This shows respect for people’s time. It informs invitees of what to expect and how to prepare for and contribute to the meeting.
If they cannot attend, they should have enough time to arrange to give input ahead of the meeting or ask someone to attend in their place.
- Manage the Time
This is your meeting, so be in charge. Have some method of timekeeping. Be on time. Start on time. End on time.
Again, this shows respect for people and their schedules. It also keeps the meeting focused and moving toward its objective. And it shows your professionalism, your ability to lead, strategize, and get results.
- Capture the Results
You probably don’t need to record minutes for all your meetings. But the most important outcomes should be captured.
You or someone you designate should make note of all decisions, key conclusions, and action items. Action items must include a responsible party and a deadline.
It’s good practice to send the meeting results out – or at least make them available – to all attendees.
At this point in my career, I’ve probably led thousands of meetings. I read over these steps and I think they are pretty obvious. But you’d be surprised how many times people don’t bother with them, thinking they can save time.
But skipping these steps loses more time in the long run. Because:
- People won’t show up if they don’t understand the purpose and importance
- The people who do show up won’t be as engaged if they don’t know their roles
- The meeting will take longer if no one is prepared
- People will be less likely to contribute without a meeting agenda or strategy
- If time is not managed discussions will lose focus and run down rabbit holes
- If no one captures results, the outcomes will be unclear and eventually lost.
Follow the steps so that these things don’t happen and so you’ll accomplish what you set out to do with your meeting in the first place. Follow these steps to be a masterful leader, a recognized engineer, and a role model for others.
Before we recap I have a favor to ask. Would you please share my podcast with someone you know? Share the link HerEngineeringCareer.com/podcast or teach someone how to get to it through your favorite podcast app.
In all of my episodes I try to give you practical guidance from a woman engineer’s point of view – insights and tips that you can easily apply in your engineering career.
My goal is to help you reach your goals. My goal is to help you become the engineer and leader you want to be, to make an impact, to make a difference.
A broader goal of mine is to get more women to stay in engineering – because we need you. We not only need your expertise and leadership, we need you to be the ones that make the big decisions.
So in this one small way, you can help me reach this broader goal by sharing this podcast with someone you know. Could be anyone just starting out, or someone more experienced who wants to stretch into leadership, build courage and confidence, or ramp up their credibility and recognition.
Recap: This episode is all about mastering meetings as a meeting leader. We discussed why it’s important for you to be a masterful meeting leader.
Then we went into detail on the 4 steps to better meeting outcomes. Finally we reviewed ways that meetings can go wrong if the 4 steps aren’t applied consistently.
I hope these insights are helpful for you. Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll take the other perspective and discuss how to master meetings as an attendee. Join in again next time for Episode 15.