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5 Tips for More Effective Meetings

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on December 02, 2014 12:21 PM

If you're having a productive day, being pulled out of your rhythm into a meeting can be a productivity killer. Many meetings consist of bored employees sitting around being bored by another employee talking at them. Many meetings are a waste of time because the person facilitating it doesn't know how to host an effective meeting.

So how do you do it? Here are five tips -- by no means the top five and certainly not the only five -- for having an effective meeting:

1. Have a Standing Meeting.

No, not a meeting scheduled at the same time every week. Literally, a meeting where you're all standing up. Earlier this year, a Washington University study reported that standing meetings might actually improve productivity. People who can get up and move around the room collaborate more, rather than being focused on their own notepad in their own chair.

2. Prepare an Agenda.

There's nothing worse than walking into a meeting with no clear goals in mind and no discernible end point. These meetings just go on and on (and on). Meetings aren't substitutes for getting things done; they're places where you talk about getting things done and then go do them. They should be quick and dirty, and to that end, an agenda keeps them on target.

3. No Computers or Other Devices.

It's tempting to bring your various devices into a meeting, thinking you're going to take notes or something. You're not. It's been fairly well established over the years that looking at a screen, or even taking notes on a screen, diminishes your understanding of what's going on in the moment. Leave the computer, tablet, phone, or whatever else in your office. Bring a notepad if you absolutely must remember something.

4. Follow Up.

Within an hour after your meeting, someone should email the attendees to let them all know what they agreed to do, and what the deadlines are for those things. Otherwise, action items can get lost in the ether, and two weeks later, that part of the project still isn't done because Bill over there forgot that it was his assignment. The follow-up email not only lets everyone know what they're doing, but provides accountability if someone doesn't complete his or her assignment.

5. Just Don't Have a Meeting.

If you've read my lists before, you know my favorite cop-out item is "don't do [thing the list is about]." That's extra applicable here. Do you even need to have a meeting? If it's just two people talking to each other, probably no meeting is required. Meetings are for large-ish groups, and if the stuff you need to say can be accomplished by email or a phone call, then why take time out of your day just because you can?

Any more strategies for making meetings more effective? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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