Organizations waste vast amounts of time and money through poorly designed and implemented meetings. This article provides a template to ensure more effective and productive meetings.
By Ian Henderson
“Meetings bloody meetings!” Meetings, the place where people take minutes and waste hours! These are just two critical views of meetings as being an unpleasant and unproductive part of organizational life. Given that a meeting is important, and that’s not always the case, the following 9 steps are guaranteed to make your meetings more effective.
1. Purpose. Why are you having this meeting? If you are having trouble answering this question you might want to question the need to have it at all. So much time is wasted by people attending meetings to which they contribute little if anything and from which they get no value (perhaps other than to catch up on lost sleep).
2. Prioritized. If the meeting is essential, the next step is to make sure that the items on the agenda are prioritized in terms of their importance to those present. If the meeting does run out of time (see punctual, below), it will be the less important items that will be left off or rearranged to a later date.
3. People - Ensure that the ‘right’ people attend. This means those who are decision makers, key influencers or have a significant input should be invited. Most organizations have professional meeting goers, people who spend much of their time attending meetings in order to avoid doing any real work. Also, avoid inviting anyone looking to jump on a hobbyhorse as they will almost certainly hijack the meeting.
4. Prepared. Those who do attend should ensure that they are properly prepared and bring along copies of a report or a product that the meeting needs to have demonstrated. Many hours are lost by attendees being unprepared. It is inconsiderate and a waste of valuable time.
5. Punctual. Perhaps the most radical suggestion of all. Start and finish on time! Organizations develop a meetings culture and it often becomes acceptable to turn up late and expect the other attendees to wait for your grand entrance. Why not reward the attendees who have made the effort to get there on time and punish the ones who are late, not the other way around? But, if you do start on time you must finish on time (see prioritized above).
6. Process. How is the meeting going to be managed? Some meetings have a chairperson through whom all points are made. Some others have a facilitator or moderator who maintains a looser grip on proceedings but who still controls the meeting dynamics. Some effective meetings have delegates sign up to a set of groundrules.
7. Participative. To get the most from the meeting everyone present should be encouraged to have their say. There will doubtless be those who want to have more than their say and some who will not feel comfortable challenging for input. The Chair or facilitator must ensure that the quieter ones have their say as it is often the case that they have a great idea that can unlock a problem. Also, the meeting should not be swayed by those who talk loudly and confidently but who might well be incorrect in their assumptions.
8. Polite. The flip side of people being encouraged to participate is that they should also be encouraged to listen to the other members of the meeting and not interrupt or hold side meetings.
9. Plans. Finally, the output of the meetings in the form of action plans must be agreed and circulated. Ensure that anyone who has been tasked to complete an action but who was not present at the meeting understands what needs doing and why they have been selected.
Ian Henderson is a highly experienced trainer, consultant and speaker. In a 20 year career he has worked with thousands of people from a wide range of organisations in the UK, the USA, Europe and Africa. He is the director of training of Eagle Training Ltd, one of the UK's leading management and leadership training companies. For more information go to http://www.eagletraining.co.uk