Meetings: The professional alternative to doing work OR Avoid making a decision, have a meeting instead
I admit it. I have a love / hate relationship with meetings. Most of the time I love hating them, but sometimes, on the rare occasion, I go to a meeting that I love and I love it because it is worthwhile and productive. I don’t feel like I have wasted my time.
There are some tools that can be used to make meetings more productive, more enjoyable for all concerned, and just generally more worthwhile.
OK, lets start with why the meeting is taking place.
Purpose and Outcome
Define a very clear purpose for the meeting and be absolutely clear what you expect to come out of the meeting. Ideally have an outcome that people can see (touch, hear). Make that purpose the whole reason for the meeting. Print it out and stick it on the wall of the meeting room, write it up on a flipchart or put it on a piece of paper in front of every participant. Refer back to it during the meeting, make sure that everything that goes on in the meeting is leading towards achieving that purpose and output. If it's not then it has no part in THIS meeting. So what if someone comes up with a really great idea but it doesn't fit with the purpose of this meeting? Capture it. Write it on a flip chart or whatever else you need to do and then set up a separate discussion to look at it.
Structure and Agenda
Make sure that you have an agenda for the meeting and that you stick to it. Allow specific amounts of time for each agenda topic and work within those time frames. That normally means asking people to do some prep work up front so that they can bring structured input to the meeting. Three other points on the agenda: Don't make the meeting longer than in needs to be. Don't have AOB. If it's relevant to the purpose of the meeting then it should be on the agenda. Ask for input to the agenda before the meeting. If it's not relevant to the purpose of the meeting then arrange for it to be discussed separately. Don't 'pack' the agenda. Allow a little bit of slack for people turning up a couple of minutes late, or overrunning slightly on one of the items.
Make sure that you have the right people in the meeting and that they are adequately prepared. With a few exceptions (meetings that are just to communicate information or news, team update meetings etc.) there are only 3 reasons for someone to be in the meeting 1. They are a decision maker 2. They have knowledge that the decision makers need 3. They have some kind of administrative role in the meeting (such as minute taker) Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them in the meeting so that they can prepare. If they need to present, how long do they have? For the decision makers, what will you be asking of them? What do they need to do in advance to make a decision during the meeting? Roles What roles do you need people to play in the meeting? Some typical roles to consider are: Chair Minute Taker Timekeeper There is no reason why each of these roles has to be a separate person but think carefully about conflicts. Generally Chair and Minute taker should be separate.
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