Leading Effective Meetings for MBAs

During the MBA summer internship, you'll spend a lot of time in meetings. If you're an MBA student, you may be wondering why you have so many team projects at school. They are there to prepare you for your future function in the internship and after graduation. In my internship, I've had days where I had back-to-back meetings all day. That's a very common situation in Corporate America.

While we had a lot of meetings at during the first year of my MBA, I was still not mentally prepared for how frequent and how important meetings were for making decisions until my summer internship.

Here are some tips that may help folks in meetings. These may be particularly helpful for those with non-traditional backgrounds.

1) Always, always have an agenda
No matter how casual the meeting, having an agenda is key. I even made agendas for the one-on-one meetings I had during the internship. The goal here is to be efficient as possible, and keep the time required to get a decision made to a minimum. I also found that making an agenda allows me to fully prepare for meetings ahead of time, making discussions even more effective.

2) Assign a meeting leader
During meetings, it's helpful to even just have a de facto leader. The purpose of this leader role is not to be authoritative, but just to help facilitate the meeting and make sure discussions stay on track and all points are covered. Usually the one who sets up the meeting plays this leader role. I've found a big difference in productivity when a meeting has this role compared to when it doesn't.

3) End on time
This is more important during the internship, but I'd start practicing it during school as well. Most people are booked back-to-back so ending on time is always important. Even when people aren't booked, they usually have other things to do. I always try to end my meetings on time, even if they start late. By having this mentality, it also disciplines you to keep things on track and prepare adequately to ensure time is well spent. By being on time, you show you appreciate everyone's time and that you are an effective leader.

4) Don't attend meetings where your input isn't needed
This was a learning I got from a senior executive. It's always good practice to only attend meetings where your input is needed. Obviously, as interns we want to attend meetings to not only contribute but also observe. But typically, you want to be efficient in choosing which meetings to attend or not attend. You'll eventually run into situations where you are double or triple booked, so effectively managing your calendar is important.

5) Listen and think
The most frustrating thing that can happen during meetings is when people only try to push their agenda without listening to what others are saying. Sometimes there can be misinterpretations as well. In order for meetings to be efficient, I found it's a good idea to make sure that you are actively listening. It's easier said than done, especially when you get a bunch of talented and experienced people in the room. However, it is essential to getting decisions made as a group.

6) Say more with less
I noticed that when I ramble on trying to explain something, people stop listening and start to think of responses. The key here is to think quickly and say things that are the essence of your idea. You want to ensure people can understand what you're saying in the shortest amount of time. It also takes skill to say things in a way that minimizes misinterpretation.

7) Stay engaged and actively contribute
I'm an introvert and often find myself over analyzing what I want to say. However, it's important to be engaged at all times and contribute. This helps the team as a whole better accomplish the mission. You want to ensure that the team has the information and decisions that is necessary to move the project forward. In this way, you are aware of where the team is going and can help shape its outcome. Especially on small teams, each person's contribution is very important.

Do you have any additional tips for holding effective meetings? If so, please let me know!

Read the other posts in my MBA Internship Leadership Series here:

Leadership: the Key Ingredient to Success
What the MBA Doesn't Teach: How to Become a Leader 
Gaining Exposure to Senior Leaders: Night Jobs
Get Promoted: First Build Trust With Your Boss
Leadership Development: Finding Time to Reflect
Non-Traditional MBA Skills, A Hidden Asset

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