In today’s fast-paced work world, team meetings happen day in and day out, yet the amount of inefficiency encountered before, during and after these gatherings is enormous. Stop and think about the productivity lost when a group of 5, 10 or up to 20 people gather, yet don’t accomplish a lot in the time allotted.

Let’s examine what contributes to the loss in productivity. The fi rst cause is “lack of agenda.” Believe it or not, only 41% of the time an agenda is created for a meeting; 59% of the time, no agenda, no structure, no advance prep, results in diminished meeting accomplishments. Stop and think what it’s like to come into a meeting not knowing exactly what’s going to be discussed. There’s no reason for this. An agenda, even a simple set of bullet-pointed predetermined discussion topics created in advance, is necessary to set the stage.

Once the agenda is created, it’s only distributed to participants 38% of the time in advance of the meeting. This makes no sense. If the team leader or project manager is going to spend time creating an agenda, why not distribute it to the attendees prior? Why bother, you ask? Because chances are, there is an agenda item people attending will wish to come prepared to discuss. Otherwise, once in the meeting their response will be: “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

So now, we have an agenda created, and distributed in advance to the meeting attendees, what’s next?

How about a place to have the meeting? Reserving a meeting room, for most businesses, is done electronically or through a central coordinator. Don’t rely on finding a meeting room the “day of.” It will not happen. Establish and announce the meeting location in advance.

What about AV for the meeting? This needs to be checked out prior to make sure it’s available and fully functional. Do you have the right adaptor cords? Do you know if your PC will be compatible with the meeting room’s projector system? There are many different display systems in today’s conference rooms, ranging from the standard 15-pin AV projector cord, to smart TV’s requiring HDMI cables to Apple TV where you may have to remember to have the firewall setting turned on in order for it to function properly. It’s not uncommon for the first 15 minutes of a 60-minute meeting to be spent trying to figure out the AV hook-up connections. It’s incumbent on the presenter to make sure all the AV needs are worked out in advance.

Discussion leader and note taker – should not be the same person. The leader needs to direct the meeting, follow the agenda, listen for input and participate. The note taker is responsible for capturing the conversation details and the action items agreed to among all participants. A common mistake is having the leader take notes, thereby splitting their attention from the conversation at hand. The note taker should not be just anyone, but should be a team member with familiarity re: the project’s scope, time, cost and quality requirements.

At the end of the meeting, what needs to be done? The leader should ask the note taker to recap the decisions reached and action items (by person, by date) agreed to.

The final step to a good meeting requires the minutes and action items be issued within 24 hours of the meeting concluding. This is most often overlooked. In fact, meeting minutes are issued just 13% of the time within a day of the meeting. Without a published set of action items, there is no way for team members to know who’s to be doing what and by when. When this happens, the agenda for the next team meeting is going to look an awful lot like its predecessor.

What comprises a great set of meeting minutes will be the topic for our next discussion.