Make Your Meetings Matter: 6 Tips to Run Effective Meetings

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Meetings are an essential part of every organization.  Whether they’re team check-ins or department updates, the routine meetings held every week or every month are the hardest to get fired up about.  Engaging, productive, and valuable meetings require a clear goal, open dialog, as well as a strong leader to manage the meeting effectively.  Just let SmartDraw’s automated Project Planning template guide you through the 6 tips of running effective meetings and you’ll be making your meetings matter in no time.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #1: Outline the Purpose

One of the most important tasks to improving your management skills and your ability to run effective meetings, is to begin with an outline of the purpose.  Every meeting should start with a “statement of success,” a clear definition of the best possible outcome of the meeting.  The mere act of stating the ideal result can inspire participants and increase the productivity of your meeting.  Use the mind map to brainstorm the primary objectives of the task at hand.

mind map view

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Popular Category in the Left Panel, select Project Planning.  The template defaults to the Mind Map View.  In the Main Topic shape, enter the focus or name of the project. Click Ctrl+ Right Arrow to add your main objectives.  Click Enter to create additional objectives.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #2: Distribute Agenda to Key Players

Only invite key players.  They are the individuals who have the ability to contribute as well as gain value in participating in the meeting.  The key players include team members who will work directly on the project in question, decision-makers who have the authority to move ideas forward as well as remove barriers, and specialists who have advanced knowledge or expertise that the group requires in order to understand an issue.  Send the agenda to your participants at least one business-day prior to your meeting, if not sooner.  This will allow participants to provide feedback as well as time for any adjustments to the agenda.

email project team

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Quick Access Control Menu, in the top left-hand corner and select the Send Email control.  The mind map agenda you create will automatically appear in the body of the email, the SmartDraw (.sdr) file will automatically attach to the email and the title of the .sdr file will appear in the subject line.  If participants have feedback or would like to make modification to the agenda, they can simply open the .sdr and send it back to you with their edits and feedback.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #3: Document and Validate in Real-Time

Since effective meetings are designed to facilitate two-or-more-way information sharing, it’s crucial to get honest input from everyone.  As the meeting leader its your responsibility to ensure everyone is heard. Keep track of every idea and thank people for their input and ideas in front of the group.  This can easily be achieved by documenting them directly into the mind map agenda found on the Mind Map View of the Project Planning template.  While you’re documenting meeting notes in real-time, your attendees validate whether their thoughts and ideas were captured appropriately by viewing the notes projected on the screen.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #4: Close with a Plan of Action

Effective meetings should close with a clear result.  So, rather than just establish that a problem exists, an effective meeting should also establish how it is going to be resolved and who is going to do what in order to solve it.

Since the views dynamically update one another, you’ll notice that the “before” screen capture indicates that the breakdown of the major objectives that were created during the meeting are categorized as “unassigned.”  It is at this point that you may invite participants to volunteer or you can delegate tasks.  The result is the “after” screen capture.  This is the team’s plan of action.  It can be easily emailed to the team using the one-click email control in SmartDraw.

delegating tasks

SmartDraw Tip: Select the Assignment View.  Click and drag tasks to the appropriate participant.  Once the meeting is complete, email the diagram to all participants.  Participants will have the newly updated mind map including their respective task assignments.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #5: Ensure Accountability Through Transparency

The proof of how effective your meeting management skills are is in the management and final outcome of the project.  You can ensure accountability with the Assignment View.   In this particular view, every member of the project team can update their task progress by noting the level of completion of each task respectively.  Depending on how often it is updated, this view may even lower the frequency of status update meetings.  If shared centrally, this diagram provides the transparency for members of the team as well as the project lead regarding the progress of the project.

views of project2

SmartDraw TipThere are two ways to update the progress of a task.  Option A: Select the specific task to be updated.  Navigate to the SmartPanel.  In the Task Details, select Task Progress.  Select the appropriate value in the drop-down menu.  Option B: Right click on the specific task to be updated.  Navigate to Task Progress.  Select the appropriate value in the menu.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #6: Tailor the Amount of Information Presented Based on Your Audience

As the project lead, you may need to report the progress of the project to your stakeholders. Based on your audience and the level of detail you wish to share, you may choose to present from the Assignment View, Project Chart View, or Timeline View in your next stakeholders meeting.

project view

SmartDraw Tip: Since all four views (Mind Map, Assignment, Project Chart, and Timeline) dynamically update, the changes made in the Assignment View will reflect in the Project Chart View and vice versa. To view the task progress in a Gantt chart format, simply select the Project Chart View.  

timeline view

SmartDraw Tip: Since all four views (Mind Map, Assignment, Project Chart, and Timeline) dynamically update, the changes made in the Mind Map View or Assignment View or Project Chart will reflect in the Timeline View. To view the project in a timeline format, simply select the Timeline View.  
Learn how to use the Project Planning Template for your next meeting.  Click here for your FREE “Make Your Meetings Matter Using the Project Planning Template” Job Aide.