Tips for Grads: Getting the most out of your meetings

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

Meetings are an inevitable part of our academic and professional experiences, whether they’re with our advisors, students, employers, employees, or fellow grad students. But without the right tools and a plan, a meeting can feel like a waste of time in your busy schedule. Here are some tips to help make your meetings, or the meetings you attend, more efficient:

  • Have an agenda: If you are in charge of the meeting in question, you can send out an agenda to the person or persons attending your meeting, and ask if anyone has items to contribute in advance. An agenda established before the meeting is a great way to make sure everyone’s time is used efficiently and that everyone understands what they will get out of the meeting. Even if you’re not in a position of authority or did not call the meeting, you can still bring an agenda for yourself of all the things that you hope to have addressed.
  • Have a written record: Taking notes is a helpful way to remember key takeaways from the meeting and remember next steps, either because you’ll consult the notes later or because the act of writing aids in memorization. I always have a separate To Do list to add items to during the meeting, so my personal tasks don’t get lost in my notes, but you may benefit from keeping your action items with your meeting notes, so you understand where the directive came from
  • Have more (smaller) meetings: If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like attending too many meetings, don’t get mad at me for suggesting this. If a specific item is taking more time to discuss than you thought, don’t be afraid to schedule a separate meeting to address that issue, particularly if it doesn’t concern everyone at the meeting you’re originally in. Tabling an issue to make sure the entire agenda is addressed without being rushed is the ideal way to ensure each item gets the appropriate amount of attention, so things are less likely to fall through the cracks.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.