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If you get my Productivity Newsletter, then you will know that I provide tips and how to guides on doing things with Microsoft Office. Recently I have been focused on Microsoft Outlook and have written about using all sorts of tools around meetings. It was natural then to do some research and find out how to hold effective meetings.
The tips in this post are a distillation of several blog posts that I consulted for the best way to have an effective meeting.
What is the point of the meeting?
Setting a meeting objective will help you to decide if the meeting is in fact necessary and will inform the next decision. See point two.
I know that this appears to be obvious, but how many times have you attended a meeting that in reality you did not need to be at? It sometimes feels as if the meeting organiser has invited everyone along because they were not sure whether this person or that really needs to be there. This is counterproductive.
It can lead to a waste of time and money. For each person at your one-hour meeting, that is an hour of other productive work that is not getting done. Plus, a person at the meeting who feels that they are wasting their time, may become disruptive and then when they do need to be at a meeting in the future they will decline.
Circulate the Agenda well before the meeting. Make it part of the meeting invitation – that way people know exactly what will be covered.
I know this may seem obvious, but how many times have you been at a meeting that has gone off topic? You sit there thinking – what on earth has this go to do with the Agenda and why am I here, it has nothing to do with me….
Arrive on time – if you are attending. Being on time shows respect to the organiser and all the other people who are there. If you are late it can be interpreted as if you value your own time above everyone else.
End on Time – if you are the organiser or the facilitator of the meeting, keep the flow and make sure to end on time. Bear in mind that those attending may well have other meetings to attend or other deadlines to meet.
When you call a meeting, it is because there is something or somethings important to be discussed and get done. Do your homework. Make sure you are prepared to host the meeting and if there is information that the attendees need to have access to – so that they can prepare too, make sure that you distribute the information in good time. Anything from two days to two weeks before the meeting.
If there is a lot of work to be done before the meeting by the participants, you may want to remind them a few days beforehand.
It is one thing to be ruthless about moving the agenda along, however time needs to be made for free-flowing discussion and creativity. Brainstorming, talking around a topic and making sure that everyone is heard.
Make sure that you have time for a Question and Answer session built in to your agenda. People will have questions and possibly need clarification of points agreed.
Make sure that everyone knows what they are doing after the meeting, and when they need to have their part of the work done by. Don’t assume that everyone took detailed notes. Make sure that you have a note of what each person is expected to do post meeting.
Have a system to follow up your meeting. Send out the minutes and keep track of tasks allocated.
Microsoft Outlook can help with meeting organisation, if you are inviting several people who work for your organisation, then you can use the Outlook Meeting Scheduler to find the best time for your people.
After you have sent a meeting invite out, you can also use the Tracking element of the meeting in Outlook to keep track of the responses to your meeting request. See who has accepted or declined or has not responded. This will allow you to know exactly who you need to remind.
Use Outlook tasks to allocate and assign tasks to people and to receive updates on their progress.
Sign up for the Productivity Newsletter – in tomorrow’s bulletin I share how to use Outlook Scheduling Assistant to help with meetings and tracking attendees.
Microsoft Outlook also works with OneNote, you can add meetings to a OneNote notebook and take notes right inside your OneNote Notebook. Then email your meeting notes from the OneNote Notebook to all the attendees. Tasks noted during the meeting can be sent directly to your Outlook task folder and then assigned to the correct person.
When you know how to use all the different parts of Microsoft Office and understand how they talk to each other, you really can up your productivity and save loads of time.
To learn more about how Microsoft Outlook can help you work more efficiently, sign up for the Microsoft Outlook course waiting list – the new Microsoft Outlook Email course will be released by the end of March 2019 and following on from that the next instalment is all about Calendar People and Tasks.
Just head over to the Courses page and see what is on offer!
I will help you be more productive and earn more money as a virtual assistant. As a trainer with 20 years experience, you'll love how you'll get between 4-8 hours a week back when you use Microsoft tools to their fullest potential. I'm also the author of several best-selling books on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, published at www.bookboon.com . Subscribe and get more productive!