Conducting Effective Meetings
By Doug Staneart
The tips below are strategies that I have collected over the years from class members who swear by their effectiveness. I hope they work for you as well.
1.) Have an Agenda: Outline ahead of time what points will be covered in the meeting. Write it out, and distribute it to participants ahead of time. This will help avoid the "chasing of rabbits," and help participants be more prepared for the meeting.
2.) Follow the Agenda: This sounds very elementary, but you'd be surprised by the number of people who take the time to create an agenda, and then totally disregard the agenda during the meeting.
3.) Limit the Agenda to Three Points or Less: Ask yourself, "What are the three most important things we need to cover in the meeting?" Limit the agenda to these three points. The rest of the things you wanted to cover, by definition, weren't really that important anyway, so why waste everyone's time?
4.) Set a Time Limit: I would suggest setting the time limit for the meeting to be no longer than 30-minutes. In future meetings, shorten the time by five minutes until the time limit is 15-minutes or less. The leader of the meeting will become much more efficient, and the participants will become much more focused as well. When the time limit is up, end the meeting. You may not get to cover every single thing that you wanted to the first couple of times you try this, but within a short time, you will find that the major information points are being discussed and decisions are being made very efficiently.
5.) Encourage Participation from Everyone, but don't Force Them: Instead of going around the table and asking for opinions or input, just ask a question and let people volunteer their answers. There will be times during any meeting that each person will "phase out" (especially if it is a looooong and BOW-ring meeting.) If we call on every person, it wastes time, and puts people on the spot. Other ways of encouraging participation is to just ask a question, and after someone answers, say something like, "Good, let's hear from someone else." If there are people in your meeting who rarely speak, instead of calling on them directly, you might say something like, "I value the opinion of each of you, does anyone else have something to add." Then, just look at the person you want to hear from. If he or she has something to say, he or she will say it if encouraged in this way. If he or she doesn't, then you haven't embarrassed the person.
Meetings can be a very powerful way to communicate and solve problems. In past workshops that I have facilitated, we have shown leaders how to identify the root-cause of a problem, come up with dozens of possible solutions, come to a consensus as group on the best possible solution, and create a written plan of action that is measurable in 15-minutes or less. Your meetings can be that efficient and that powerful too if you use these simple tips.
Doug Staneart, firstname.lastname@example.org, is CEO of The Leaders Institute, Management and Public Speaking Training. His classes focus on overcoming the fear of public speaking, building confident and autonomous leaders, and improving employee morale. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-872-7830.