Meetings have become a dirty word in enterprises. This unfortunate situation is due to some bad practices that has crept into how meetings are run. This article is a guide on how to avoid some of the pitfalls and run more productive and fulfilling meetings in organizations.
Do you really need the meeting?
The first question one needs to ask when setting up a meeting is: “do I really need this meeting?”. One way to answer this question is to see if any other forms of collaboration like emails, blogs, etc. can serve the purpose of this meeting. Often if the meeting is about sharing information that does not evoke any discussion or further actions, then such meetings could be culled in favour of other information sharing tools. In some situations the host informally talking to each participant individually works more effectively than calling each participant into one room and going through the same conversation.
Write down the goal of the meeting
If one has decided that a face to face meeting is the best tool for the purpose, then one needs to clearly articulate the goal of the meeting and decide on the duration of the meeting. The structure of the goal should not be: “what would we do in the meeting”, but instead it should be: “what should be the outcome of the meeting”.
Who all should attend the meeting?
Deciding the right attendee list for the meeting is an important activity. Everyone invited must have a role in the meeting: either to listen and then make decision, or to provide inputs. It is important to make sure the meeting does not have anyone whose participation would not add any value to the outcome of the meeting. Similarly, it is also important to not miss out on anyone who is needed for important inputs during the meeting or anyone who needs to execute the decisions that are taken in the meeting. This is one thing where the organizers must use their best judgement.
Come up with Agenda Items
Like the goal of the meeting, agenda items are also best written in an outcome oriented way. For example “choose the compensation plan for internship program” is a better agenda item when compared with “discuss the compensation plan for internship program”. Additionally, one should have an estimated time to be spent on the agenda item during the meeting.
Preparation for the meeting
Some meetings run much better if attendees come prepared on the subject of the meeting. It is important to notify and track if attendees are prepared for the meeting. Sometimes it might be prudent to cancel and reschedule a meeting if all attendees are not well prepared for the meeting.
Don’t waste anyone’s time
The first rule about attending a meeting is punctuality. Some organization institute a fine for late attendance. Whatever might be the method of achieving it, punctuality is one of the greatest cultural asset an organization can develop and nurture.
During the meeting, one must make sure to stick to the agenda and any off-topic discussion that does not add to the goal of the meeting should be checked and culled before they start taking over the meeting.
Maintain a Parking Lot
In case during the meeting some useful topics comes up that were not planned for or will likely not fit within the meeting time slot, use and maintain a “parking lot” to keep aside all these topics for future meetings. This helps in both keeping the current meeting on time and purposeful and also helps making sure some useful topics gets discussed eventually in other meetings. It is also a great social tool to keep everyone motivated on the current meeting, knowing that the topics they brought up were not thrown out in the garbage bin.
Take notes and summarise Minutes of the meeting
One should either nominate someone to write down meeting minutes or let the participants collaboratively write down minutes during the meeting. Additionally, it is a good practice to jot down some notes for personal use.
Record the Decisions taken in the meeting
In meetings often some decisions are reached. It is important to record the decision taken and explicitly make sure everybody is aware of the decisions. This avoids future disagreements.
Assign Action Items
During the meeting, often some action items come up that needs further work and cannot be resolved during the meeting. It is important to note them down with the right assignee and due date. For recurring meetings it is also a good practice to set aside some time to do a quick review of action items from previous occurrences of this meeting series.
For recurring meetings re-evaluate the need to continue
For all recurring meetings it is a good idea to review the goal, agenda items, and the need to continue this meeting series at a regular interval. This should be done at least once a year, maybe once a quarter.
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Hope you found the above techniques helpful. Please share what other technique and process, or tips and tricks, you have developed or found useful to run a fruitful and productive meeting.