To meet or not to meet...
Most employees and managers complain about the time and energy they spend in meetings that do not produce the intended outcomes. Below are a few hints to ensure meetings are productive, efficient and effective.
1. Decide if a meeting is really the answer: Ask yourself if a meeting is really warranted. The following questions will help you decide. Can information be passed on by just visiting one or two people? Will an email work? Could we do this by a conference call? If yes, it's probably not a good idea to have the meeting.
2. Decide who needs to be there: Only invite the people who really need to attend. There is nothing more frustrating than to be requested to be at a meeting but you are not providing useful input. If one person from a department or an area can represent the entire area, then just invite one person and have them report back. Everyone will get the summary. Sometimes your ROLE requires your attendance. If so, attend.
3. Develop an agenda: An agenda provides the name of the meeting, date, timeframe, place and purpose (what you seek to accomplish). All of these should be listed on the agenda (see attached sample agenda). Don't be over detailed in the agenda but it is good to indicate if any individual will be reporting out on a topic. Send out a meeting reminder a day or two ahead of time and request response for attendance.
4. Become the facilitator: Be sure your meeting starts on time and ends on time. Leave the less important topics for the end of the meeting so they can be removed to ensure a timely end. People that straggle in late will not get a review of what they missed. Make sure that topics covered are discussed with a decision made or resolution reached. A decision needs to be made about each topic on the agenda. Tabling topics for another meeting can lead to analysis paralysis and unresolved issues. That is why time management is critical.
5. Keep it short and stay on topic: Most meetings, if they are managed properly, should take no more than 30 minutes unless it is a special topic. Even then, 60 minutes should suffice. Stick to the agenda and prevent people from wandering off the topic or addressing non-relevant issues. Participants will be thankful that you, as the meeting coordinator, have taken this role and are keeping the purpose of the meeting in the forefront of conversations.
6. Be flexible: If during the meeting you're not getting what you need, don't be afraid to cancel the meeting or change the process midway. Participants will be thankful that you are flexible and are paying attention to the process. At the end of the meeting, provide a “check out” as follows: Review the decisions made and ask participants how the meeting went and what you could do to improve the outcome.
7.Send out a meeting summary: A brief summary of the topic, decision made and responsible person(s) should be sent following each meeting (see attached sample summary). The summary should be sent no later than the next day to ensure timely implementation of decisions.