Meetings in the IT industry a part of the job. Some people like them, some people don’t. At some stage in your IT career, you might be required to run IT meetings. Here are a few tips on how to run a meeting.
How To Run A Meeting – Decide If The Meeting Is Necessary?
A big part of learning how to run a meeting is to ask yourself, “Is the meeting really necessary?” Could you get the same result from another method of discussion? Perhaps a phone call or two, or an email and a follow up phone call is enough to reach an agreement or to discuss a point – and can be done in far less time. If the meeting is not necessary, take an alternative course of action.
If, however, the meeting is necessary, then by all means hold the meeting and follow some of these tips to make it an effective meeting.
What Type Of Meeting Is It?
Another question to ask yourself is, “What type of meeting is it?” Are you having the meeting to solve an immediate problem, such as an implementation issue or software support problem? Is it a brainstorming meeting to generate a large amount of ideas on a topic? Is it a planning meeting, to decide the future work or plans for your team, for either the short or long term?
Answering this will help in setting up the IT meeting and make sure it is as effective as it can be. Problem solving meetings, or action meetings, are usually shorter and are created with short notice, however brainstorming meetings can be larger and longer due to what happens in the meeting.
Consider Attendees Carefully – Only Invite Who Is Needed
If I had a dollar for every meeting I went to that I didn’t need to be there for, or that someone else was there that didn’t need to be, then I’d have a lot of dollars!
You might think that inviting everyone who “might” be interested in the result of the meeting should attend. A more effective approach is to only invite those who either:
- Need to provide input to the meeting
- Able to make decisions on the outcome
Those who need to provide input to the meeting would depend on the type of meeting, but it could include people such as a technical team leader, a project manager, a business user representative, or a particular developer or team member. The decision makers also should be there, as they are able to listen to all the information presented and make a decision on the actions to take.
If the meeting can be held with half the people that need to be there, it not only makes it a more efficient meeting, it may get resolved in a shorter time and reduce time wasted by non-essential attendees.
Write An Agenda And Send It Out
It’s a good idea to prepare an agenda before each meeting and send it out to the attendees. An agenda doesn’t need to be anything fancy if you don’t want it to be – it’s just a list of the topics that are going to be discussed in the meeting.
The reason this is done is so that people know what the meeting is about, what is being discussed, and they can do the appropriate research or work beforehand. It’s also used in the meeting to “keep people on track” – one of the biggest time wasters in meetings is deviating from the original discussion.
Having an agenda allows you, as the chairperson of the meeting, to suggest that the group move back to the items on the agenda.
If there is anything else that needs to be discussed that is relevant, it’s up to you to let that discussion continue or set up a secondary meeting for it. Relevance and time constraints will be considered here.
An IT meeting agenda sample could be:
- Introduction (2 minutes)
- Background (5 minutes)
- Main Topic (15 minutes)
- Questions (5 minutes)
- Actions and Close (2 minutes)
The times for this IT meeting agenda sample are based on a 30 minute meeting, and could be adjusted depending on the length of your meeting. You don’t want to be wasting time with things that aren’t relevant.
IT Meeting Ice Breakers
When you start the meeting, sometimes it helps to make everyone feel more comfortable by starting with an “ice breaker”. This is a term that is used to start a conversation, and is usually casual and off topic, to get people to feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Some common IT meeting ice breakers are:
- “How’s your day been?”
- “How’s (project name) going?” if they are working on a project you know about
- “Did you have any trouble getting here?” if they are coming from a different office
- “What do you think of (topic)?” where the topic may be something that has recently happened in the company, a recent announcement by the CEO or a news item.
It can be helpful, even with senior managers, which you may not know very well.
Start On Time – And Don’t Recap For Late Arrivals
Time is valuable. You’ve set up a meeting for a specific time and length with certain points to discuss, and have the right people there. It’s important to start the meeting discussion on time.
If people are running late to the meeting, don’t wait for them to arrive. It may sound bad, or inconsiderate, but the meeting start time was set for a reason. It’s also a good example to set – if you want to be involved in the meeting, then you should arrive on time.
You also shouldn’t recap for people who are late to the meeting. This only encourages late arrivals. When you conclude a meeting, you should send out a list of discussion points (mentioned below) and they can get their information from that.
Take Minutes and Action Items
Taking minutes of a meeting is essentially writing down the key points that are discussed or decided. The minutes can either be taken by yourself, or by someone else at the meeting. There are pros and cons of either approach – taking them yourself ensures you get them down correctly, but you’re often occupied with running the meeting and too busy to take notes. This will come with personal preference.
Minutes are taken so that you have something to refer to when you need to take action on the meeting. They are used as your confirmation of the discussion points, and to send out to the attendees at the end of the meeting (more on this below).
Action items are essentially a list of things that need to be done, who is responsible for doing them, and in what timeframe. These are also documented with the minutes and communicated to the attendees. They are helpful in making sure your meetings are more effective.
An IT meeting minutes template might be helpful here, if your company has one. It would include the following points:
- Date and time of meeting
- Name or title of meeting
- Location of the meeting
- Attendees (who came to the meeting)
- Apologies (who was invited but could not attend)
- Agenda (which was already determined)
- Discussion points (what was discussed during the meeting, broken down into tables or dot points)
- Action items (what needs to be done, and by who, at the end of the meeting).
This IT meeting minutes template can be converted to a document that you can use many times for your meetings.
Summarise At The End Of The IT Meeting
Just as the meeting is finishing, you should summarise the discussion points to everyone in the room. Say them out loud – and confirm everyone agrees with them. If you’re taking minutes (and you should be), then you can refer to these at the end of the meeting.
Doing this will ensure that you’ve all reached the same conclusion of the meeting and you all know what to do after it – by referring to the minutes and action items.
Additionally, you should send out the minutes and action items after the meeting. This can be done via email in whichever format is appropriate – you could type it straight into an email, or prepare a formal template. This will depend on what your team or organisational standards are.
This is a good point to to remember when thinking about how to run a meeting.
Follow Up The Meeting Action Items
Another tip for how to run a meeting is following up. Once you’ve sent out the minutes and action items, the final step is to follow up on them. It’s good to set a list of things that need to be done by certain people, but this needs to be followed up to ensure it gets done, and within the specified timeframe.
If you follow most, or all of these tips, you should find that your meetings are more effective, you get more decisions made and get more done, and less time is wasted.
Do you have any other tips for how to run a meeting? Share them below!