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Tips for successful meetings

08th January 2018
Meeting Room at Student Central with chairs in a circle

We’ve all been to, and organised, meetings that have overrun or not gone according to plan. We’ve pulled together our top tips to running better meetings to help ensure that your future meetings are efficient, enjoyable and most importantly productive.

Find out how University of London Venues can help you host a productive meeting at any one of our portfolio of venues, supported by our in-house events and catering teams. Contact us today on 020 7862 8127, email us on conference@london.ac.uk or make an online enquiry

 

Meeting problems and solutions

 

Unproductive meetings
A well-known bugbear of meeting organisers (and attendees) is an unproductive meeting that eats into your precious working time. Send round an agenda before the meeting, so people know what to expect and can raise any points prior to the day. This should avoid people getting side-tracked during the meeting. If you end up with someone who is dominating the meeting and not listening to others, then take some time out. If a venue has a breakout space or a café, this is a great place to take stock and let people blow off steam

 

Meeting overrun
Probably the most frequent meeting niggle is an overrunning meeting. If you’re holding it at a venue, then you are likely to only have the room for a specific timeframe. Help ease the stress of this problem by choosing a venue that offers alternative options if this happens. Perhaps they can move you to another room, or you can extend your booking on the day.

 

Meeting environment
Getting the right environment is key to the success of your meeting. You’ll never please everyone, but aim for a comfortable, practical room that has adjustable heating, air conditioning and adequate windows.  If people become too hot, or too cold, or the room is too bright or dark, then attention can start to wander. You want to have the control to stop this from happening. If possible visit your chosen meeting room before the meeting takes place. At University of London Venues we offer venue walkthroughs, so you can get a feel for what our event spaces are really like. Contact us to arrange yours.
 

senate house meeting room

Meeting technology glitches
What happens if your key piece of technology fails? Avoid the whole meeting grinding to a halt by knowing what you need and finding out exactly what technology the venue offers. Make sure you arrive early to familiarise yourself with it too. Additionally, it’s worth checking in advance if your chosen venue has an in-house events team to provide technical support.

 

Meeting refreshments
Always, always make sure you provide enough refreshments for your meeting attendees. Tea and coffee are essential, as are some form of snack. Without refreshments (and yes, caffeine!), you’re in danger of losing people as their energy and focus dwindle. The easiest solution is to choose a venue with in-house catering, so you don’t have to worry about the logistics. They should also be able to account for any allergies. If possible choose healthy snacks and low sugar options, so everyone has lots of energy for longer. At University of London Venues, we provide a range of healthy, ethically sourced food options for our meetings. Find out more here.

Venue cancellation policy

Check your venue’s cancellation policy. There’s always the chance that something will happen that means you need to reschedule or cancel at short notice. People might not turn up or plans may alter at the last minute. You don’t want to be left out of pocket. Find out more about our flexible cancellation policy.

 

Meeting structure ideas

 

So you know you need a good meeting structure and you’ve already decided you’re going to use meeting agendas to improve your meetings.

But what should your meeting style and structure be? At the top of your meeting agenda structure should be a positive, headline achievement that the group or team has achieved. Some good news to get things started with a bang. It doesn’t need to be huge, even a small group or personal milestone is enough.

You can also monitor the performance of your meeting and see at each stage if there’s room for improvement. That way you’re constantly working on the structure and efficiency of a meeting. 

To really keep an effective meeting structure, it could be a good tactic to use a timer. However nitpicky this seems, it actually just stops everyone losing track and makes you more aware of which areas you may have overrun on. The type of meeting will also impact the amount of time the meeting needs.

 

More strategic meetings will need more time for thinking and discussing, whereas operational meetings should be short and concise.

Ensure too that within the structure of the meeting, you have made time for each person to speak if they need to. You don’t want to end up with one person dominating the meeting, or run out of time when there are still things left unsaid.

Define the aims and goals of the meeting and breakdown the tasks or areas you need to cover. Decide how often you need to talk about each area and set a schedule if necessary.

If you do overrun, you can set aside a short time on another day to cover off anything that doesn’t get discussed or resolved.

Student central meeting room

Meeting strategy suggestions

It’s important to consider your meetings and be prepared for them with effective meeting strategies. Smaller, more quickfire meetings might not need too much thought but longer, more strategic meetings need consideration and planning.

 

You need to make sure the meeting setup, attendees, agenda and time period fit the type of meeting you want to run. A one size meeting does not work well for different types of meetings. Decide what strategy will fit your meeting best.

Strategic meeting ideas

If the meeting itself is a strategic meeting, then you need to allow lots of time for thinking, considering, discussing and debating. People need time to be able to take a step back and think outside the box. Inspire people at the start by sharing something fascinating or interesting about the business or industry you work in. This will grab people’s attention.

We talk you through how to run effective meetings and some of the most effective meeting formats. 


Effective meeting guidelines

 

What really are effective meetings? What can take your meetings to the next level and what different types of meetings need what sort of treatment? We take a look at some effective meeting guidelines to help you improve your meetings.


Benefits of virtual meetings

We understand that it's more difficult to hold effective meetings when working remotely. However, with many businesses turning to remote meetings and virtual conferencing at this time, there are so many ways of holding effective remote meetings.

Virtual meetings are cost-effective and low on resources. They allow you to connect from any city or country, and mean that you can share a large amount of information, live with all participants. They might even enable you to attend meetings that you might not normally.

They’re so efficient time-wise, with just an internet connection and a device needed to log-on and join in. Some of our favourite virtual meeting tools include Google Hangouts, Zoom and Slack.

You can share resources easily, with screen share functionality and the ability to illustrate on screen. Holding remote meetings also keeps down the costs that face to face meetings bring. For example, you don’t have travel expenses, or even the cost of overnight stays.

Remote meetings support and facilitate working from home and as we’ve seen the success of these types of meetings rise during the pandemic, it seems they’re most likely here to stay. 


Challenges of virtual organisation

Of course, virtual meetings and organising work remotely does have some drawbacks. Sometimes, you just can’t beat human interaction and face to face contact, which is really key in certain industries.

Then there’s the danger of having too many virtual meetings as it becomes the norm and a way to just connect and get human contact. There could be the danger of having a virtual meeting for the sake of it. 

 

As with all virtual events, meetings and any remote working, there is the challenge of the connection itself. The only real downside of virtual working and meetings is a connection problem. Someone may keep breaking up, or not be able to present their screen or may not even be able to connect properly at all. This is when being distanced becomes a disadvantage rather than a practicality.
 

Student central meeting room

How to lead effective team meetings 

Team meetings may feel like a regular fixture in your calendar, but are they really that effective or a tired routine? 

 

The main aim of a team meeting should be to assist your team in becoming more aligned and working better together. If it’s not clear, you need to explain the direction the team (or business) should be going in and help everyone understand what they’re working towards. 

 

Make sure you are all clear on what aims you’re trying to achieve and what individual achievements and contributions will be needed. Keep motivation high by letting the team know what progress is being made on wide business aims so they feel like they’re making a difference. Sharing information is key, so people feel like they have a stake in progress.

 

Be careful to have a clear and concise meeting agenda that includes items such as: 

  • Challenges that the team might be facing (compared to other teams too)
  • Key team projects
  • Assessment of what has worked well before and what may not be working currently
  • How everyone’s work links together and impacts each team member

In terms of meeting structure, it’s important to get it right to keep everyone engaged. You could start with a chat and some morale boosting news. You could then summarise the overall picture of what you’re working towards. Next focus on achievements and positive stories, moving on to challenges that are faced by the team. Summarise with takeaways and actions for all participants.

 

How to run a committee meeting

Ensuring a committee meeting is effective really is crucial for everyone who’ve most likely volunteered and are giving up their time for free.

 

Define the aims and parameters of the meeting and what the committee’s purpose and responsibilities are. Stick to your meeting agenda, and focus on the goals of the meeting so you don’t get sidetracked. Make sure you narrow down a clear set of goals at the end to give attendees each something to work on and take charge of.

It’s key that you nominate someone who can lead well, so that the direction of the meeting is chaired well and you don’t go off track.

 

How to run an effective production meeting

It’s important to be clear about why you’re holding your production meeting. It should be a time when all departments can share information, clarify the needs of each department, firm up deadlines and create a schedule that takes into all department priorities.

 

A production manager should lead the meeting and coordinate all activities to satisfy the director or designers visions.

 

It’s important that these types of meetings are booked on a regular basis to ensure all parallel activities keep to schedule. Keep them short, to the point and useful. With lots of different stakeholders involved, they have the potential to get messy and overrun.

 

Meeting room setup styles

The set up of a meeting room can be key to setting a productive, inspiring mood and can really impact the efficient running of a meeting. 

 

Different layouts are suitable for different objectives and meeting types too, so it’s important to consider which one is best for your meeting and what you hope to achieve from the meeting itself. Plan this before and talk to your venue about layout options that are available. 

 

A boardroom layout is great for a short, concise meeting where you are focused on getting through a structured agenda. This layout is a traditional one and consists of chairs around a rectangular or oval table.

 

A u-shape setup is perfect for training sessions, video conferences and presentations. It’s open and facilitates discussion between meeting attendees and the presenter. Everyone can take notes and clearly see the main screen or person presenting or talking.

 

A hollow square layout is good for introducing a new concept, brainstorming or discussing. The meeting lead stands in the middle of the 4 desks, enabling a dynamic set up. It’s ideal for breakout sessions or collaborative project work as the lead can move between small groups on each of the desks. 

 

An auditorium style layout is another quite traditional setup and features a main stage or focal point with all chairs arranged in rows facing the screen or stage. This style is good for longer presentations and knowledge shares. It’s suited to more passive learning, and is normally for bigger groups. It’s a good way to get across information to a large number of people without the need for them to interact with each other.

 

Classroom layout

This layout features all attendees facing the main speaker or meeting leader with desks in front of them, so they can take notes or complete tasks. This sort of layout is good for participation and could lead to a dynamic, collaborative meeting.
 

Classroom layout in University of London meeting rom

 

Banquet layout
This classic layout features round tables, with chairs placed around each so people can be seated in small groups. This is useful to mix up your attendees and get them to talk to each other. It also doubles up as a useful set up for mid meeting refreshments, so is useful if your meeting is going to last a long time.

 

Reception layout

This is a combination of a banquet style and auditorium layout with round tables facing a main screen or stage but in more organised rows. This would be suitable for a mixed meeting, where you might have a main presentation but then have lots of activities which involve collaboration between smaller groups. 


Venue accessibility checklist

Choose a central venue with good transport links. This helps avoid late arrivals due to traffic and delays incurred looking for that elusive parking space. 

First impressions are vital. Avoid ending up in a pokey, dingy room buried in the depths of your chosen venue - simply ask to see images and floorplans of the room before you book.

Be careful that you don’t end up with a meeting room that has insufficient accessibility for wheelchair users. Or with a theatre set up, when you need a cabaret layout.

Choose a venue that offers flexible seating and check which rooms are accessible for all attendees.

It’s always advisable to check out the venue’s technical facilities and Wi-Fi connection, especially if you’ll be holding a conference call with attendees dialling in remotely. It’s a bonus if the venue has a technical team on hand to help.


Productive meetings at University of London Venues

Find out how we can help find your perfect meeting room across our trio of locations at University of London Venues. Senate House provides a range of elegant art deco spaces and modern meeting rooms in an iconic university building. Student Central offers large meeting rooms with a café for downtime. Garden Halls is the newest of our venues and offers light, spacious, modern meeting rooms.
 

Whatever the issue, if you keep our tips in mind, your meeting will be the best it can be. Then it’s just down to the attendees themselves. Find out how our in-house team can help support you and give you more information on booking your meeting room by calling us on: 020 7862 8127, emailing us on conference@london.ac.uk or making an online enquiry

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