How to Define and Clearly State the Purpose of Your Meetings

Many meetings are booked and held without a clear purpose and as a result, waste time for everyone involved. In order to have effective meetings, you need to start with the WHY.

Let me start with something you’ve likely heard a lot and maybe even thought to yourself this week…

This meeting could have been an email.

How many times have you left a meeting thinking that?

Many, many meetings are booked and held without a clear purpose and as a result, waste time for everyone involved.

In order to have effective meetings, you need to start with the WHY. Why are we having this meeting?

Determining your meeting’s purpose

MG Rush outlines a number of reasons why people have meetings:

To help you craft the perfect why, it’s crucial to focus on the end result. You can do this more easily by asking yourself three specific questions:

Take a few moments to think about the answers to those questions before firing off that next calendar invite. It’ll help to ensure that the meeting has been set with purpose.

Once you’ve figured that out, you now need to clearly articulate the why of your meeting — the meeting’s purpose — and communicate that out to your attendees so that everyone is on the same page.

But, before you move into the next steps, one important aspect of effective meetings is ensuring that the right people are in the room — virtual or otherwise.

Think about your intended outcome and who will be a part of driving that outcome forward. Then, narrow that down to the specific scope of this conversation. One helpful tip: mark non-essential guests as optional.

1Communicate the intention of the meeting upfront

Ideally, this would be communicated in the calendar invite. People should be able to read the title of the meeting and the description of the event and clearly understand the purpose of the meeting.

2Prepare and send an agenda ahead of the meeting

It’s best to do this collaboratively with those who need to participate in the meeting and/or contribute talking points but ensure that what’s been added aligns to the purpose of the meeting. If it’s not related or will spark an off-topic tangent, it doesn’t belong in this meeting.

Communicating the intention and pre-sending the agenda will also help determine who should be at the meeting. If someone reads the agenda and the purpose and decides that they have nothing to contribute, give them the option to opt-out of the meeting or attend for a specific portion.

Project Update Meeting Agenda

3Collaborate on meeting notes in real-time

By collaborating on meeting notes in real-time, you’ll help to create transparency, eliminate redundancies — not everyone needs to be taking the exact same notes in multiple notebooks — and ensure that there’s clarity in the outcomes.

With Fellow, you can have one source of truth for every meeting, boost transparency and accountability, and never forget what was discussed.

Meeting Agenda Software

4Write strong, clear, and on-topic action items for follow-up

If you did a great job early on of setting the intended outcomes for the meeting, these action items should be aligned with those.

It’s possible that other things will pop-up during the meeting and that’s completely okay — you just want to end the meeting with movement toward the intended outcome or purpose.

Meeting Action Items App

5Finish the meeting with a solid recap

Finish the meeting by recapping the purpose of the meeting, the intended outcomes, the over-arching discussion you just had, and the next steps that are derived from the meeting. Everyone should leave the meeting feeling like they have their marching orders, so to speak, and know exactly what to do next.

These five steps will help you to not only define your next meeting’s purpose and intended outcomes but ensure that those outcomes are followed through on and achieved in every single meeting you schedule.

A little meeting homework for you

Take a look at your calendar and at all of the meetings that you have scheduled. Can you clearly articulate the purpose for each meeting and what the intended outcomes are?

If you can’t, that’s okay — what I’d encourage you to do is go through each meeting and reframe it in this light. Build agendas ahead of time, be really clear about your purpose, audit the attendees and think about ways that you can make the meeting a productive work session.

Let us know how it goes on social media!

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