One of our more downloaded White Papers is WP1075 Managing Meetings. If your job involves arranging meetings then you need to get both your strategy and your tactics right to create a short, effective, useful and enjoyable experience for everyone!
Strategy focuses on the vision and purpose your meeting should:
Be planned to achieve an outcome
To get the most out of your meetings, you need to plan them wisely. Prior to each meeting, write down the specific objectives that you want from the meeting. Then work out how you’re going to achieve them!
Contain a carefully crafted opening and closing
People remember the opening and the closure the most. So open and close your meetings carefully. When you open the meeting, tell them what the purpose of the meeting is, what you want to get out of it and why it’s important. This gets their attention and sets the scene. When you close the meeting, tell them what has been agreed / achieved in the meeting and the next steps going forward.
You need to be in complete control of the meeting at all times, to ensure that:
• The meeting follows the agenda
• You never get stuck on a single issue
• One person doesn’t dominate it
• Everyone has their say
Start by standing or sitting in a prominent place in the room. Raise your voice a little to add presence. Jump in frequently when people talk too long. Be polite but strong. Control the meeting as a coach would control a football team – by constantly watching, listening and directing the team. If possible, ask someone else to record the minutes. This gives you the time needed to control the meeting so that the agenda and your goals are met.
Be focused, don’t be afraid to ‘park issues and move on’
Issues and disputes can consume the majority of the meeting time. Provided the issue is not related to your specific meeting goals, then tell the team to ‘park it and move on’. Record the issue on a whiteboard or paper and address it with the relevant team members separately after the meeting. This keeps your meetings short and focused.
Be kept ‘action orientated’
Make sure that where possible, every discussion results in an action to be completed and the ‘action item’ should be assigned to a responsible owner for completing.
To achieve this strategy, use the following tactics:
- Send out a meeting agenda in advance with any anticipated items that you may need specific attendees to address highlighted to that person. This way people can come prepared to provide meaningful contributions.
- Start and finish the meeting on time. Your attendance and participation level will be better if people know you have a reputation for getting right to business on time and that your meetings don’t run on forever. Start it on time, be productive and then end it.
- Don’t repeat everything for late-comers. If you have to update someone on a key point that has already been discussed in their absence, do so quickly. And if they missed their time to discuss their specific tasks, move them to the end of the line–get back to them after you’ve gone through the rest of the team. If you have a reputation for being on time with your meetings you won’t have too many problems with people arriving or calling in late.
- Release everyone as soon as business has been conducted. When the meeting is over, close it out with a brief verbal summary of action items and let everyone know the action list will be circulated within a few minutes. And then end the meeting.
- Cancel a meeting if you believe there’s nothing new to discuss. If you’ve set up a meeting but there’s nothing new to discuss or key contributors cannot attend, then cancel it or re-schedule it. On the flip side, be careful not to do this too often. Otherwise people will come to expect your scheduled meetings to not happen and they will either come unprepared or not come at all.
- Focus the meeting on the agenda. Try to recognise when the side discussions start to get out of hand and ask those individuals to call a separate meeting to discuss or ‘park it’.
- Publish action items within minutes. Action items are delegated to specific people, but he list is sent to everyone (see more on delegation). Follow up with the minutes containing a status summary of what was discussed, decisions that were made, action items that were assigned, when things are due and when the next meeting will be held within a day. Send it out via e-mail and ask attendees to respond if they see anything incorrect or feel that anything should be added. That way you’ve essential documented that everyone is on the same page.
For more detailed advice on managing your meetings download the White Paper WP1075 Managing Meetings. Applied effectively these ideas can free up a massive amount of time!