Working in groups to complete assignments and projects is inevitable for most, if not all, students. In fact, you will work in groups in a variety of social situations. In this tip, we are going to talk about those meetings you have with group members to reconnect, recenter group efforts, complete tasks together, and plan for future action towards completion of the project. The context for the meetings we have in mind here is a group working together on a school project/assignment. From preparation to fruition and post-meeting actions, we have tips on what to consider to have effective meetings.
Before the Meeting
Prior to the meeting the group leader or organizer (really whoever wants to get the group together for a meeting) should complete some actions so that all the group members know what is expected and what should be prepared.
First, have a purpose. No one likes useless meetings, especially busy college students. Have an idea of why the group needs to meet and what should be the result(s) at its conclusion. Also consider if a meeting is necessary; question if texting or emailing is sufficient.
Second, create an agenda (or have an idea of what will happen). Honestly, I do not do this too often, but I wish I did because having an agenda, or more likely at least an idea of what will happen in the meeting would be quite beneficial. The flow of the meeting will improve, everyone will know the expectations and what to plan for, and nothing will be missed. Having a meeting and then becoming sidetracked because there is no structure/plan or forgetting to discuss a part of the project will hinder the group and will ultimately require more time.
Third, once all the details have been determined and there is an agenda, send it all out to the rest of the group members in advance. We all know there is that one group member that drops the ball and forgets there is even a meeting, so sending out the details in advance serves as a reminder that there is a meeting and a location for group members to easily refer to in order to access the meeting link, agenda, etc. Additionally, people will know what to prepare ahead of the meeting so no one can say “Oh, I didn’t know we were discussing that,” or “Oh, I don’t have that ready,” because they knew it was going to be discussed.
During the Meeting
At the start of a meeting, as a group consider designating a facilitator and notetaker. The meeting facilitator is only leading the meeting and keeping everyone on track with the agenda. The notetaker of course takes notes about the meeting, or perhaps could be the one filling in the group answers on the assignment or whatever is applicable.
In regards to the process of the meeting, if applicable, first summarize the last meeting and then state the purpose of the current one. Everyone knows where the group left off last time and what has yet to be done. Then, as aforementioned, remember to have everyone stay on topic and to keep the momentum going so the ideas keep coming and the meeting is truly effective. At the end of the meeting, summarize the main points discussed and then state action items to have completed before or at the next meeting. If applicable, also take the time to plan for the next meeting.
After the Meeting
There are a couple more things we recommend you do immediately after the meeting to close this one off and start the next one on the right foot.
First, if applicable, create the online meeting room or reserve the physical location. If an activity does not take you long, such as this one typically, it is almost always best to do it right away instead of having it looming over you as something to do.
Then, send a follow-up email to your group members. In this email, send out the summarized points from the meeting, the action items to be completed by group members, and details for the next meeting (including the zoom link or room information determined just before).
Those are some tips we have on how to run effective meetings so that you and your group can complete academic assignments and projects efficiently and well. These tips can also be adapted to apply in other situations such as at work, with family members or sports team meetings, etc. At the end of the day, as long as the group meets and completes their tasks, the meeting is a success; but, to really get the most out of your time and these gatherings, we encourage you to apply some of these tips.
Written by Cole Navin
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Interested in further improving your effective meeting skills? Consider meeting with one of our Study Skills Specialists. Learn more at https://www.guts.wisc.edu/study/ss.
*This is an opinion post. While the topics described here are mostly based on research, please keep in mind not to assume all of the information described above is factual.