How To Conduct A Productive Meeting
Why are meetings so important? I once worked in a team of five people and the manager would often call up to three meetings a day
. They would invariably end up wasting everyone's time with a load of irrelevant waffle and would rarely reach any valuable conclusions. It was almost as if he wanted to irritate us! Meetings are not simply time set aside for people to listen to themselves talk and bore their team members. A productive meeting is concise and reaches conclusions or finds solutions to the problem for which the meeting has been called. So how is this achieved?
The most vital weapon in your meeting arsenal is the Agenda. No meeting should ever be without one. It should be a simple list of what is going to be discussed with a section on the end called 'any other business.' This agenda should be distributed well in advance of the meeting to all attendees to allow them to consider their comments in advance. Through the agenda, the meeting will have a clear direction and this will prevent people going off on a tangent. The reason an agenda is so important is that it shows the purpose of the meeting. People will not appreciate being removed from their busy working day unless there is a good reason for it. Show the reason through the agenda bullet points. This is not an opportunity for you to give everyone details, as the item will be discussed in the meeting so keep the list concise.
When you enter a meeting you should ensure that you are well prepared to deal with the agenda bullet points. If you require visual aids such as pie charts etc to illustrate your point then make sure that you already have these prepared. Book the meeting room ten minutes ahead of your meeting start time so you can set these up. Remember that technology is guaranteed to fail you when you most need it and people do not want to waste fifteen minutes of their time while IT fiddle around with the projectors. If there is additional information required for the meeting such as handouts then be sure to have them printed out and in place by the time everyone arrives. If other people need information before the meeting begins then email it to them in advance so they can have time to digest it and compose their response. If you want people to discuss a topic and they are not informed in advance then it is your failing for not allowing them sufficient time and information to prepare.
Set a clear time limit for the meeting. Inform the attendees of the amount of time they will spend in the meeting. People may feel dread if they believe they could be in a never ending meeting and this will not generate a positive discussion. In order to stick to the time limit, give a time segment to each section of the agenda. This will give attendees a sense of urgency and prevent them chatting. Be ruthless when conducting the meeting if you see people wandering onto other subjects or waffling. Politely suggest that their topic could be discussed later and bring the meeting back to the main point.
Have meeting minutes taken and drawn up so that everyone is given a clear summary afterwards. Templates for minutes should be used for consistency. This will reduce the amount of repetition later on. Also, if members of staff forget or disagree on what was said later, the minutes can be referred to for clarification. In the minutes ensure that clear action points are taken down. The meeting should not be solely to discuss what everyone thinks. If there is a purpose then there will be things to do to ensure the solution takes place. Note down the action and the person(s) who are responsible for it. This can be followed up at a later date or in the next meeting.
The most important part of a meeting is the decision making process. Attendees will want to participate and give their opinions and then see positive action. If no actual decisions are made then the meeting will appear pointless. If a decision cannot be made then note the reasons for this and assign a person to go away and solve the issues or find the further information so the decision can be made. In order to ensure that decisions are made, take responsibility for the meeting and become the driving force. Start each agenda point by giving a summary and then asking for comments and suggestions. Once the item has been discussed, make clear action points and note the final decision before moving everyone onto the next section.
by: Rich Talbot
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