10 tips for running a great IT meeting: How to run an effective meeting

Meetings are at their best when they bring together a diverse set of viewpoints and talents to work towards a common goal. But meetings can also be a phenomenal waste of time, introducing a bureaucratic back-and-forth that runs in circles and achieves precisely nothing.

According to a 2019 report from 'smart-scheduling' software firm Doodle, 72% of UK professionals regularly lose time each week to unnecessary or cancelled meetings. Furthermore, in the meetings that did take place, colleagues are up against transgressions such as: texting, interruptions, latecomers, or interminable waffling, said Doodle.

Sometimes, though, a meeting is totally unavoidable. With that in mind, CIO UK has compiled some concrete steps that organisers can take for running an IT meeting that won't leave colleagues tearing their hair out.

Read next: Best practices for implementing a successful BYOD programme

Know who to invite
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Know who to invite

Time is our most valuable resource, so it's vital that everyone you invite to a meeting actually has a reason to be there.

If the meeting is regarding a project or an update, it should only affect the employees these changes will be relevant to. Scheduled a meeting to discuss the deployment of new payroll software? You probably don’t need to invite your HR team into that one.

Ensuring the invite list aligns to the subject matter will help individuals to feel valued in their role and that their time isn't being wasted. It will also help you tailor the information you present to the audience and remove the need to explain the basics to anyone out of the loop.

Knowing your audience will inevitably lead to a better connection with your work colleagues and can also create a more effective way of ‘selling’ your ideas to team members.

Marshall Motor Group, BMJ and Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust all run regular IT meetings to ensure collaboration, engage team members and help set clear goals.

Keep everyone engaged
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Keep everyone engaged

One of the biggest challenges for CIOs running meetings is keeping team members engaged for the duration.

While the use of stories and anecdotes can personalise a meeting and give it a more relaxed atmosphere, these discussions can also go off topic or push back the schedule.

There is nothing worse than a meeting dragging on. An easy way to keep focus is to set a timer and make sure you stick to it.

Multitimerand Focus Keeper are great apps that allow users to set multiple timers. Users can customise settings to 'countdown', 'stopwatch' or short intervals - useful for brainstorming ideas while sticking to schedule.

If you have a talkative team, ask questions, create interaction in meetings, and spark debates. Although this won't work every time, it can help you avoid tumbleweed scenarios.

A round-up of key points at the end of the meeting should ensure employees leave feeling as though they have achieved what they have set out to and know what they have to do next.

The use of infographics and animation are another fun and creative way to enhance a successful IT meeting. Make them eye catching to focus the attention of your meeting’s participants, lighten the mood and break down heavy loads of information.

Graphics and animations are also an effective and engaging way to communicate your message in meetings.

Set goals
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Set goals

A CIO should have a clear reason for conducting a meeting and ensure all attendees are aware of its purpose. Consider what you want to get out of the meeting, next steps and goals you want to reach before the next meeting.

This will help your meetings stay on the right track and that progress is being made. You are obviously meeting for a purpose, so try to ensure the outcomes are clear.

For instance, if a decision needs to be made by the end of the meeting, make sure a final decision is made and not put on hold. That way people are more likely to take action and get to work as soon as the meeting is over.

Anschutz Entertainment GroupCIO David Jones says: "We have quarterly IT service delivery meetings, where I and my management team meet with each business unit to review their IT projects and initiatives, to identify any issues or risks, and to plan for the future.

"By regularly meeting with and communicating with business senior leadership, we ensure that the IT aligns effectively with business strategy and operations."

Make it remote-friendly
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Make it remote-friendly

It is important to take those that cannot physically make it to the office into consideration. This is particularly relevant for remote workers.

Video conferencing is a great place to start. It is very accessible for people that need to join a meeting, allowing you to share presentation screens, dial others in and also video call to make it feel like you’re actually in the room.

Zoom and Skype for Business are two options that enterprises tend to use when hosting meetings with colleagues that are working from home or based abroad.

Read more: How CIOs can successfully manage remote workers

Share an agenda
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Share an agenda

Once you know who will be holding the meeting, it is a good idea to share an agenda with other attendees. This gives people a chance to prepare and also makes them aware of what the meeting is about.

The agenda doesn’t have to be too detailed, but brief pointers of what you intend to discuss can be effective. It is even better if you have a designated facilitator or minute-taker for the meeting, who can keep track of all the points and make sure everything, is discussed as planned.

Creating an agenda will not only put you at ease but will also ensure the meeting doesn't drag on. A segmented meeting will make information easier for employees to take in.

Make sure all the relevant data is exported and converted into meaningful insights to be passed onto the whole team.

Read next: 8 vital tips for beating deadlines

Be confident
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Be confident

IT meetings need to be clear and confident.

A CIO should have strong managerial and leadership skills to help deliver an effective work meeting.

Director of IT Neil Williams at The University of Derby says, “The IT department was unbalanced – it focused predominantly on the delivery of technology rather than service.

“Since then, my leadership and managerial skills have developed it has enabled the team to extend beyond the IT systems to influencing corporate strategy and corporate transformation”.

Follow-ups
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Follow-ups

Following up from meetings is vital in making sure employees' voices are being heard. Reiterating the key messages of the meeting will help employees prioritise their workloads and ultimately contribute to the team reaching their goals.

The DVSA's Director of Digital Services and Technology James Munson says: "Taking feedback from the 2014 staff survey, I have personally given quarterly presentations to all staff in all main officers covering four locations. I have invited staff to quarterly meetings with me in small groups to listen to their concerns and take action. I send a weekly communication to all IT staff covering issues, news updates, people changes.

"We have rotated IT management meeting location around our sites, inviting teams in to present for 30 minutes on what they do, their people and their current successes and challenges. We also hold an annual away day to bring everyone together for some work, some play and a lot of networking."

Take notes
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Take notes

All members should take notes when attending an IT meeting.

Wunderlistand Evernote are collaborative apps offering note-taking capabilities.

These free tools allow users to create to-do lists, set reminders and due dates for organising work schedules. In addition, users can share notes via the cloud great for retaining information, prioritising work tasks and ultimately saving time.

Minutes are useful for having a recorded account of a meeting which should include aims, objectives and discussions made in the meeting. This can be valuable for future projects by acting on any concerns early to avoid an IT crisis. (Read next: Best organisational apps for business users 2017.)

Don’t be too corporate
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Don’t be too corporate

A stuffy and over-corporate approach to a meeting will never work. You should break down the meeting by engaging with team members, the use of multimedia can help team members concentrate and not dread the next IT meeting.

Taking a more laid-back approach should result in employees joining in with debates and voicing ideas, rather than sitting silently (and possibly bored) watching a Powerpoint presentation.

Royal Society of Chemistry's Director of Technology Frank Gibson says: "I have introduced an informal monthly technology town hall meeting with an open invitation to the entire organisation.

"To foster openness and transparency I have included a guest spot for anyone from the wider team to join in the weekly technology management meeting, which works on rotation. This also acts as a training tool for the guest to see how effective meetings are run and how decisions are made, and provides insight into the role of a technology manager."

Know that you don’t always need to have a meeting
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Know that you don’t always need to have a meeting

A one-to-one catch up is a great way to receive instant feedback if you want to resolve an issue quickly.

Email and collaboration tools such as Slack and Google Hangouts are useful to communicate on group projects without the need of arranging a meeting. This can help increase team collaboration, encourage ideas and ensure projects are met on time without needing to take time out of your day.

Other companies make use of virtual and lunch meetings as a way to communicate with team members. Whether it’s communicating IT with suppliers, executives or customers, stepping outside of a structured boardroom can have an impact on the company ethos.

Transport Systems Catapult'sIT Director Alex Farr says: "We have adopted a hotdesk environment within our office to assist one of our key organisational values – collaboration. As a department, this has significantly helped, as I have been able to spread my team across the organisation to understand some of the issues within the organisation better. I have found this informal approach to looking at opportunities to identify areas for improvement more efficient than workshops or formal meetings."

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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