Not another meeting
Meetings are a common cause of frustration in many organisations. Effective meetings are few and far between and time spent in meetings is often seen as time which could be spent doing rather than talking about doing.
Your role in meetings will vary, depending on whether you have organised the meeting and are acting as chairperson or whether you are attending meetings organised by others. In either case, you have a responsibility to ensure that the meeting is successful and does not rob you and your colleagues of valuable time.
Meetings arranged by you
The following action points will help you make meetings you arrange more effective.
Before the meeting
Decide whether the meeting is really necessary.
- Could the objectives be achieved more effectively through another process?
Establish the purpose of the meeting.
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What decisions need to be made?
- What actions need to be initiated?
Prepare an meeting agenda.
- Include only those items relevant to the purpose of the meeting.
- Put agenda items in order of importance, with most important first.
- Group together related items.
- Indicate time allowed for each item.
Finalise the meeting agenda
- Collect all available information relevant to agenda items. If lengthy, summarise into briefing notes outlining salient points.
- Circulate agenda and supporting documentation well in advance of meeting.
- Restrict attendance to those people affected by the issues to be discussed.
- Just before the meeting check for new information which, if to be presented to the meeting, should be simplified and summarised.
During the meeting:
- State the purpose of the meeting.
- Check attendance and make a note of those present.
- Set the scene for each new item on the agenda and then open discussion by inviting specific contributions from members.
- Let everyone who has a pertinent contribution have his say.
- Control the discussion. Don’t be afraid to bring it into line if it starts to drift into excessive detail or irrelevancies.
- If a discussion becomes complex and a wide variety of views are being expressed, summarise to review your own understanding and that of others.
- Stick to the time limits.
- At the end of each item’s discussion summarise any decisions made and conclusions reached.
- Summarise what has been achieved at the end of the meeting. If further action is required specify who is to do what, and agree a deadline.
- Agree the purpose and date of the next meeting.
After the meeting:
- Circulate minutes to those who attended and those who did not attend the meeting. Minutes should be an accurate record of the proceedings.
- Decisions made during the meeting should be highlighted with the names of people responsible for action and the time scale shown clearly against each decision.
- State the date and time of the next meeting.
- Monitor and review the progress of action arising from the meeting.
Meetings attended by you
The following action points will help you get more out of meetings arranged by others.
Before the meeting:
- Read the meeting agenda and briefing papers.
- Make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting and pay particular attention to those items on the agenda which directly affect you.
- Think through the issues likely to be raised and plan your contribution.
- Take all relevant information into the meeting.
During the meeting:
- Don’t be afraid to stay quiet and listen.
- Only speak when you are called upon or when you are seeking clarification or when you feel you have a useful contribution to make.
- Make a note of any decisions made and any further action required, particularly by you.
After the meeting:
- Read the minutes, pay special attention to those items which require action by you.
- Produce an action plan specifying what you need to do and the time scale.
- Monitor your own performance against the action plan.
If you follow the guidelines above, you will find that you have effective meetings that are seen to be of benefit to all concerned.
Till next Time
The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner