You know those meetings that go on and on forever with no agenda, no purpose and no end? Yup, we’ve all been there, and we all know how much of a waste of time these meetings can be. Often, they can be a phone call or an email, and they never require everyone in the room. So how do we make sure that these meetings don’t take place?

Five tips for keeping a meeting on track

For Assistants this skill is essential. Everyone wants a meeting with your Executive, so you have to make sure they are necessary. Once your Executive is in the meeting, you have to make sure that the time is spent wisely. Here are five tips for keeping a meeting on track.

Invite the right people

I used to work at a place where meetings were treated like popularity contests. If you got an invite, you had made it! It didn’t matter what the meeting was about or what you would contribute. People think meetings are where the magic happens and will try to get into the room. You also get people who are the exact opposite, that you can never pin down for a meeting and of course you all have colleagues that set up a meeting when only an email is needed. Whatever types of characters you are dealing with make sure you get the right people into the room. When organising and accepting meetings for your Executive, do look who else is going and if you are not sure why they are attending, contact the organiser and ask.

Stick to the time slot

This is always easier said than done. Meetings run over all the time, but we know that can be avoided with excellent time management so if you have to pull your Executive out of a meeting, do so! The time and length of the meeting should have been thought through the way in advance so that it finishes with all items covered.

Stick to the agenda and don’t be afraid to pull people back to the point

Firstly don’t ever except a meeting without an agenda. If the organiser doesn’t have time to write a quick agenda for the meeting, your Executive doesn’t have time to attend! If you are in the meeting with your Executive make sure you follow all of the agenda through and listen to what is being said. I know it is not easy but if you feel like the meeting is getting off course give your Executive a look or write a note. Discuss this beforehand to make sure they are comfortable with that approach but trust me if you are in a meeting with your Executive that is going nowhere; they are going to thank you for pulling everyone back into the zone.

Who is in charge of the meeting?

Again, you need to know this before accepting a meeting for your Executive. Who is chairing the meeting? If the organiser wants your Executive to chair the meeting, you should sit down with the organiser to put some structure in place for the meeting. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What is the agenda?
  • What is the purpose and objectives of the meeting?
  • Who is attending?
  • Are there any supporting documents?
  • Are there any challenges or obstacles that your Executive needs to be aware of before the meeting?

It is also worth remembering that if your Executive is required to chair a meeting with lots of documents, then you will need this meeting to be scheduled with enough time for your Executive to prepare.

Take notes

It would be ideal if you were in every meeting with your Executive but we all know that is impossible. So when you can attend do make sure you take notes and record everything that is relevant. If your Executive is attending a meeting without you, then suggest that you structure their notes in a way that allows you to look at the notebook or device that they are using to take any actions away. I like this structure from MeisterTask. During meetings focus on the following:

  • Facts: (Example: Jenna is the creative lead on this project)
  • Issues: (Example: There is too much work to get done by the deadline.)
  • Decisions: (Example: We will break this project up into smaller, more manageable chunks.)
  • Action plans: (Example: The project manager and creative lead will determine how to break this project up, then the project manager will schedule a meeting to discuss how to distribute that work.)
  • Questions and answers: Take note of questions team members bring up during the meeting and the answers that are given.

With these five tips, you should be able to keep your meetings much more focused and on track.