Why Meetings Should End in Action Items

We’ve all experienced this workplace scenario: just when you’re in a super-productive groove, checking off your to-do list and impressing yourself with your productivity, a reminder pops up: you’re due in a meeting in 15 minutes. “Oh great,” you think. “This will be a complete waste of time.” By the time the meeting is over, your day is completely derailed and you’ve lost your momentum. To make matters worse, nothing was actually accomplished!

Meetings are a necessary part of business. Most of us wouldn’t dread them if we felt they were actually productive, instead of a waste of valuable time. Unfortunately, too often meetings are ineffective, where little is accomplished and participants feel frustrated.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When people have a clear expectation of a meeting’s objective and what they need to do next, they’re more likely to engage. Your meetings will be more productive, and you won’t be wasting anyone’s time. Most important, your colleagues won’t be filled with dread each time you call a meeting.

Here, we’ll highlight some simple ways to make meetings more effective, by respecting everyone’s time, creating action items and following up.

Respect Everyone’s Time

In the current business climate, most businesses are doing more with less. They’re asking employees for higher productivity, or combining the work of two people into one position. When planning meetings, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge that your co-workers could be overworked and stressed out, with very little extra time.

Since people hate wasting time, the meeting organizer’s job is to ensure it doesn’t happen. Here’s how:

  • Decide who really needs to participate, and invite only those people. Provide meeting notes to others who need to be informed, but don’t need to attend.
  • Prepare an agenda and stick to it. Determine the meeting objective and state it front and center. An example might be, “We’re meeting to establish a preliminary range for the sales staff’s annual salary increase.”
  • Then, list the actions that need to occur in the meeting to accomplish the objective. Use verbs such as “discuss,” “review,” “brainstorm,” “schedule,” and “decide.”
  • Keep the meeting as short as possible. If necessary, establish time limits for discussions and table undecided items until the next meeting.

If you’ve run an efficient meeting, you will accomplish the objective. Now, what happens when participants return to their offices and get back to work? Will Steve do that salary survey he mentioned? Was Meredith supposed to contact the management team for input? Or will everyone have forgotten what he or she agreed to do? Assigning action items prevents confusion over who does when, and when.

 Create and Assign Action Items

Before everyone leaves the room, determine what needs to happen next. By following these steps, you’ll have a clear plan of action:

  • Take official notes. Encourage participants to fully engage by assigning an official note-taker or recording the meeting. It’s difficult to be both facilitator and note-taker, so recruit someone else. Assure attendees they will receive a report, including key points and decisions made by the group, along with action items.
  • Decide how decisions will be implemented. Ask participants for input on how the group’s decisions will be implemented. These will be the action items.
  •  Assign tasks to the group. Determine who is best equipped to handle each action item.
  • Distribute notes and action items to the group. As soon as possible post-meeting, distribute a report and list of action items to each participant. Each item should have a clear expectation of what is necessary for successful completion, as well as a due date. Avoid using “ASAP,” since people are more accountable to actual calendar dates.

Assigning action items ensures that the meeting objectives are not forgotten when participants return to their offices and aforementioned to-do lists. It’s just as important to follow up and hold people accountable for their action items.

 Follow Up and Report Progress

Action items are the most important component of a meeting. They ensure something will be accomplished and keep all team members on the same wavelength. Remember, it’s essential to hold your co-workers accountable for their action items, or the due dates will come and go without any progress.

Follow up with each attendee to make sure they’re on track. Stop by to talk, send an email or make a phone call to check in, and extend due dates as necessary. Report any progress back to the entire group on a regular basis, until all action items are complete.

 To Make Meetings Effective, End with Action Items

Meetings can move projects along or stop them in their tracks – it all depends on how they are run. By following these steps, you’ll make your meetings more productive and effective, with actionable items that get things done. Instead of feeling resentful that their time is being wasted, your co-workers might even look forward to your meetings. Especially if you don’t forget the doughnuts!

Erin Palmer is a contributor to U.S. News University Directory – a leading source for higher education information online. The directory provides working professionals a reliable place to locate accredited colleges. Offerings include advanced business degrees and certificate programs in areas such as; human resources, marketing and project management.  For additional information, please visit http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com.