Making the Most of Meetings

March 28, 2019 | Posted in:


Businessman presenting new project to partners

Here at Systems Engineering, we understand that meetings are an integral part of every organization's work day. They are meant as a tool used to accomplish projects, overcome hurdles, and assign action items. Every meeting should have a clear purpose, an expected outcome, and conclude with a clear objective to move business forward. 

Meetings are costly and time consuming. Ineffective meetings contribute to unnecessary non-value-added waste such as lost time, inconsistent outcomes, lack of decision making, and rework. This article highlights standard components for scheduling effective meetings, establishing common ground rules, and overall meeting etiquette.

Have a Clear Purpose

Know the context and purpose of what you would like to accomplish before scheduling any meeting. Having a clear purpose will establish focus for the meeting, determine the agenda, and help gather the right meeting participants. Some questions that need to be asked prior to scheduling a meeting are:

  • Do I need to schedule a meeting or can I accomplish what I need by making a phone call?
  • Is the meeting aligned with organizational and departmental goals?
  • What is the intended purpose and why is the meeting taking place?
  • What is the goal of each topic?
  • Will the meeting move actions forward?
  • What type of meeting is it: decision making, information sharing, training, idea generation, project, or problem solving? 

After asking the above questions, move next to these best practices:

  • Schedule meetings for only as long as needed, not because the Microsoft Outlook system defaults to a certain time-frame.
  • Alternate roles and share responsibilities so it isn’t always the same person acting as the timekeeper and scribe.
  • Consider having the scribe project talking points as the meeting takes place so everyone is engaged.
  • Consider gathering feedback on what’s working, what’s not working, and what could be better as a way to maintain value for meetings while also ensuring that suggestions for changes, or improvements for the meeting, are acknowledged and acted upon.

Respect Everyone's Time

Everyone is busy. Respect the time of those you need at your meeting by clearly stating the purpose, sending an agenda, and exclusively inviting only those needed to accomplish the objective. Make sure you can clearly explain what each person’s purpose and role is at the meeting. Respecting each other’s time and holding each other accountable brings quality to each meeting.

Oftentimes, meetings can be accomplished via collaboration tools that are most efficient overall. Here are a list of cloud collaboration tools we use at Systems Engineering:

  • Microsoft Office 365 which includes these collaboration tools:
    • Teams - share documents, notes, and ongoing conversations
    • OneDrive - make edits to documents at the same time as colleagues without losing changes
    • Web Conferencing
  • Cisco's Webex Teams - share documents, notes, and ongoing conversations
  • Cisco Jabber - send someone a quick chat to clear up confusion or to answer a question

Meeting Etiquette

While 'etiquette' is typically saved for the dinner table, it also applies to meetings. Good meeting etiquette allows those in attendance to feel productive and engaged. Here is the 'meeting etiquette' published at Systems Engineering:
  • Start and end on time
  • Be present and actively engaged
  • Limit sidebar conversations
  • Be prepared to discuss talking points by reviewing the agenda before the meeting
  • Hold yourself accountable to action items
  • Establish shared understanding around use of laptops and phones during meetings or training

Looking for effective collaboration tools that drive efficiency? Email info@systemsengineering.com or call 888.624.6737.