Meetings are a way of life in the corporate world and most people will agree that they fall into two categories:
1. Those that are Effective; and
2. Those that are Not.
When meetings are run effectively, they serve a critical corporate productivity function. When meetings are run ineffectively, they waste time, become non-essential and simply cost money. This two-part article provides meeting leaders some helpful techniques you can implement to make sure your meetings stay as effective as possible.
Set meeting objectives & circulate meeting minutes
Hold a meeting in the first place only if a specific outcome is needed. Make sure you have clear meeting objectives that can be measured. Also ensure that you have meetings minutes (or an agenda if it is not a recurring meeting) documenting these objectives, how you will achieve them, when they’ll be achieved and with whose help. Meeting documentation should be circulated as far in advance of the meeting as possible – no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting.
Come to meetings prepared – read relevant reports, have information to share and have your notepad and calendar available. Bring something to write with (and to write on)! If you own an action item, make sure you are prepared to address it.
Get the right people to attend
Know that your primary role as the leader of the meeting is to assure the right decisions are made. As such, know who your resources are and the roles they play. Invite only key stakeholders. Requiring non-essential personnel to attend meetings decreases their productivity. Failing to invite key stakeholders limits meeting effectiveness.
Try to hold your meetings toward the beginning of the week so as to allow people to work toward actions items and assigned tasks as the week progresses.
Start on time
If you wait ‘just a few more moments’ for those who you know are coming but have not yet arrived, regulars will start to expect that you will wait, and over time the meeting will run later and later. While we all have occasional crises, habitual latecomers are showing disrespect for the meeting process and for the time constraints of others who arrive on time.
If networking, give three minutes notice of start time
Many meetings have a pre-meeting period of mixing, networking, getting coffee, or other unstructured activities. The transition to structured meeting necessarily takes a few minutes for people to finish their conversations, take their seats and come to order. Giving a few minutes notice of start time prevents this transition from encroaching on meeting business time.
Keep track of time
It’s not unusual for meetings to go over their predetermined time limit, despite the best efforts of the participants. The trick to staying on schedule is setting time limits not only for the meeting itself, but also for individual agenda items. As the meeting convener, your job is to keep things moving using the item time limits as your guide.
Be structured, and clear about structure
Be clear about the structure of your meeting, and consistent about enforcing it. Be clear about who is doing what and when it is to be completed. Be flexible in the face of the unexpected, but firm in the face of casual sloppiness.
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