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Effective Meetings

Do you use a productive process for managing meetings?

By
Lisa B. Marshall
April 24, 2009

Page 1 of 3

Dave Barry says that meetings are like funerals "in the sense that you have a gathering of people who are wearing uncomfortable clothing and would rather be somewhere else." He says, "The major difference is that most funerals have a definite purpose."

A quick search of Twitter will show you that at any given time someone in the world is sitting in a boring unproductive meeting. Geo Perdis recently wrote, "Tweeting at end of long, boring unproductive meeting and before delayed start of next one: priceless."

Run More Effective Meetings

With this episode I am trying to right this universal wrong, one listener at time. Today I'm going to share with you tried-and-true tips for better and more effective meetings. When you adhere to these guidelines your meetings will be better. Guaranteed. Don’t let a sloppy meeting culture influence YOUR meetings. Let your meetings serve as the model to be emulated. Here’s how to do it.

Plan and Develop the Meeting Purpose, Outcome, and Agenda

It sounds obvious, but always first think about the purpose of the meeting. If you need to come to a resolution then a meeting is usually a good idea. If you are only sharing information, then another approach might be better (maybe a podcast, email, or a report). Next ask, "What's the ideal outcome?" (Of course, if you can't come up with a good purpose and ideal outcome, then you don't need a meeting).

Bullet the purpose and projected outcome at the top of the agenda. Underneath, list the required and optional attendees. Then, for each topic, very briefly list what, who, and how long. Use action words like decide, discuss, review or select. For example,

* Review conference location recommendations – Paul G. - 3 min

* Select location – Team - 7 min

The content should drive the length of the meeting. Don't forget to include necessary breaks and time for social activities; they are just as important as the content. Establish a start time, then calculate the end time and include these times on the agenda.

Always think about the purpose of the meeting. If you need to come to a resolution then a meeting is usually a good idea. If you are only sharing information, then another approach might be better.

It's best to pre-publish the agenda. I suggest pasting it directly into the body of an email (because attachments often don't get opened). If possible, send it out more than a day in advance because you'll want give time for review. Someone might want to add or modify the agenda and that’s best handled one-on-one. One benefit is that it might encourage refection, preparation, and attendance.

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