How to Ensure Your Meetings Are Efficient, Relevant, and Impactful

An aerial view of employees around a meeting table

In the same way an athlete's goal is always to run faster, throw farther, and score more points, the facilitator's goal is always to host meetings that are relevant, time-efficient, and impactful. One of the best ways to ensure your meetings are productive and creating meaningful results is to consistently evaluate them when they are done.

Evaluation should be done regularly, although group input is not necessary for every meeting. The way in which you approach your evaluation will depend on a variety of factors, including how much time you have and how well your group knows each other. While individual variations may be endless, there are, essentially, only three ways to evaluate a meeting:

1. Self-Evaluation: You evaluate the meeting, individually, as the facilitator

As the facilitator, you should always evaluate your meeting even if you do not get evaluations from other attendees. It is important to do your evaluation as soon as possible after the meeting. Preferably, you will take a few moments to reflect shortly after everyone else has gone, and before you leave the room. A standard list of criteria that you can move through quickly will make the process more automatic and will also make for easier tracking of trends, successes, and failures.

2. Group Evaluation: Attendees evaluate the meeting, as a group, while still within the group setting

The most comprehensive information will come from answers that attendees write and then share orally. This gives the more outspoken attendees a chance to think before they speak and it gives quieter members of the group a chance to think about what they would like to say. It also give a voice to those that don't speak up in the group dynamic. In this scenario, the facilitator should ask for all written responses to be left with him or her so that all opinions may be fully considered.

Though not as thorough, informal feedback to questions asked orally is also helpful. This approach is helpful if time is a factor, and can build a greater sense of team camaraderie and communication. It is a good idea here for the facilitator to note answers, enlisting the help of one additional note taker to ensure the most possible "shout-outs" are picked up and recorded.

3. Individual Evaluation: Attendees evaluate the meeting in writing, individually, anonymously

In written evaluations, the most complete and nuanced information will come from open-ended questions, but scaled answers ("on a scale of 1-10") might get more responses, as they take less thought and time to answer. In addition, numerical responses also make for easier analysis. Yes/No answers may also work if there is an implicit or explicit direction to "explain your answer" for each question.

Below are some suggested evaluation questions and criteria.

Yes/No Questions, with Explanation:

  • Did the meeting advance the goal?
  • Were the right people in attendance?
  • Was the right information available?
  • Was the physical environment appropriate/optimal?
  • Were meeting agreements established and kept?
  • Were the agenda topics relevant?
  • Did the group stick to agenda topics?
  • Did you confirm decisions made and identify next steps?

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish?
  • What worked?
  • What would you do differently?
  • How can improvements be implemented?
  • What was the best thing about this meeting?
  • What was most frustrating thing about this meeting?
  • Any a-ha moments for you?
  • Did you get the information you expected/needed on all agenda topics?

Scaled/Numerical Questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate each of the following components of our meeting? (This is my favorite since it has the group look at itself)
  • We accomplished our purpose for this meeting.
  • I contributed opinions.
  • I considered the opinions of others.
  • We stayed on track.
  • We followed our ground rules.
  • We used creative techniques for discussing/solving problems.
  • We had open and honest communication.
  • We encouraged and had full participation.

Make it a practice to get group input at least quarterly and then make sure and share the results with the group at the next meeting.  Have them decide one or two areas to work on and improve over the next few months.  Most meetings don't get better because evaluation is left out.  If you incorporate this into your meetings you can guarantee your meetings will get better.