Up until March 2020, a large proportion of the meetings one attended could have been an email or a phone call or could have been mandatory for only a part of the attendees leaving some freedom to choose if this hour was best spent in a meeting or doing some other type of work.
I have rarely felt like a certain meeting could have been an email, but I have often left a meeting thinking that either I had no clue why I was among the attendees or what was decided. Last weekend we had a daylong meeting for the students association of which I am a member. Time and again, I feel that these meetings are super productive and that the level of productivity cannot be achieved by email discussion or even online “zoom” meetings. Having everyone in the same room helps with reaching common ground by allowing for clarification of positions, helps with real-time (physical) reaction to some decisions/statements, stimulates creativity and sense of belonging.
However, we only managed to be productive because we had a clear idea of the topics to be discussed and we had 1 week to think about them, even having received some specific questions or points to take into consideration on our decisions. The day was divided into a logistics and practical component in the morning and a more creative session in the afternoon that has benefited from having people interacting and warming up to each other through the day. Importantly, for each of the sub-topics we had a clear goal to accomplish and a time frame to achieve it. When final decisions could not be made, the points that needed clarified were summarised and a person or team volunteered to find the information, allowing moving on to the next topic. What I particularly liked was the possibility for everyone to speak their mind (mostly) and the willingness to find a common ground.
In summary, these are the points that facilitate better meetings:
- Have a clear agenda
- Be prepared
- Attribute a time stamp
- Allow for discussion
- Summarize decisions
- Identify clear tasks to be followed up upon and attribute them to a specific person/team.