If you google “meetings bloody meetings”you get over 11 million results and page after page of workshops, how to books, videos, webinars and lessons on how to hold effective meetings. And yet we still attend meetings that:
- Drag on interminably
- Have no purpose
- Are interrupted by late arrivals who need a synopsis of what has been covered so far
- Do not require our presence
- End with no conclusions
- Are useless and worthless
However, meetings are essential. They let us build relationships. They resolve problems. They inform people. So we can’t get rid of them but we sure can control them. By following a few very simple rules we can turn meetings into effective and productive events.
Purpose. Make sure the purpose of the meeting has been well defined AND documented. Some examples:
- To find a solution to the problem of …
- To inform the team on the new …
- To resolve the issue facing …
Make sure all attendees know the purpose BEFORE the meeting so each person can decide if they really need to attend.
Agenda. If the meeting has more than one topic write out an agenda and send it to the meeting attendees BEFORE the meeting. The agenda should include:
- The topic
- Who will present it
- The time assigned to the topic
Also include start and end times and location of the meeting on the agenda; this allows people to manage their own time. When estimating the length of the meeting avoid rounding up to the next hour; make it 50 minutes or 1 hour and 45 minutes.
ALWAYS start on time. The scene is all too common; six people sitting around a table waiting for the one persistent latecomer to arrive. Even if it is your boss you are waiting for start on time. Your reputation for starting meetings on time will soon spread and latecomers will become the exception rather than the rule.
End on time. Nothing throws our day for a loop than being stuck in a meeting that goes way past its best-before-date. This is unfair to all the attendees and makes it impossible for them to plan their day. If the meeting is not complete by the anticipated end time then set up another time to complete the topics.
Be selective. If you have been invited to a meeting make sure your attendance will contribute to the success of the meeting; if not consider not attending. If you are organizing the meeting be selective on who you invite. Your meeting may be the next best thing since slice bread but the whole world does not have to attend. Only invite those who can contribute and/or need to be involved in the result.
Document the results. If the results of the meeting are not worth documenting then the meeting was probably not worth having. Decisions are made; issues resolved; next step identified. These should be documented and distributed to both the attendees and those who need to know the results.
Well managed meetings are an excellent tool to achieve an end purpose. They inform those who need to be informed. They create the synergistic effect that result in better decisions. They involve people in executing change causing the change to happen.
So next time you need to organize and run a meeting follow the simple rules and show by example that your meetings are effective and productive and do not waste people’s time. People will flock to you seeking your secret!