Don’t walk away without a plan.

We’re getting on more conference calls today with more office staff working remotely. But too many conference calls are disorganized, don’t have a clear purpose, and might seem unnecessary to some attendees. In this post, we’ll help you get your meetings on track so you can accomplish more not just in the meeting but also as you complete the projects you’re discussing.

1. Limit meeting attendees

The more people you have in the meeting, the more it turns into a presentation the host is giving with everyone else just listening. It’s more difficult to have conversations without people talking over one another. And, it’ll be more intimidating for people to unmute and speak up, leading to long silences.

Decide who the decision makers are and meet with fewer people, then send meeting notes to everyone who needs to know what’s happening next. Be open to having one-on-one or small group discussions after the high-level call.

2. Have an agenda

Before you start any meeting, bring a bulleted list of exactly what you need to get through. Allot a certain amount of time to each item by dividing the meeting time by the number of points. Get comfortable with phrases like “we only have another 3 minutes on this topic” and “we need to wrap up on this and move on” to cut down on losing the topic at hand.

Consider emailing attendees your planned agenda ahead of time and giving them time to send you any preliminary thoughts that might change the meeting or help you keep it on track. And use the agenda to decide if a meeting is even necessary.

Professional woman in home smioling and waving to conference call on laptop

3. Decide if you need to have it at all

One of the biggest complaints of office workers today is that there are too many meetings that are unnecessary or could have been quick conversations or emails. By outlining your agenda, you’ll find which questions you need answered by whom – and you can talk with them directly ahead of time to cut down on what you need to meet about. Don’t be afraid to cancel a meeting and send an email instead, sharing that you can meet if someone finds it necessary.

4. Leave with action items

Don’t wrap up a meeting until you know exactly who is on point for which items. Go through your agenda and identify the tasks that need to happen next, who will be doing them, who will be assisting or editing, and what the due dates are for review and delivery. If you leave a meeting without any action items, then the meeting might not have been as effective as you thought.

If people leave without any action items, consider if you need them to be in future meetings on the topic or if it makes sense for them to just get the recap afterwards.

5. Send a follow-up email

After the meeting, send an email to all attendees with a recap of what was discussed, what decisions were made, and why. Often, decisions are made verbally and later contested because people don’t remember the decision happening or why. Put it in writing so that you can refer to what happened and cut down on unnecessary follow-ups.