Is it actually a meeting?
From my experience, very few ‘meetings’ actually fit their definition.
The key word in this dictionary entry is discussion. Unidirectional communication can be better achieved by presentations, emails, and briefing booklets. If a single person is giving information or receiving information, there’s probably a more productive way to communicate than holding a meeting. This transitions well to our next question….
What’s the Point?
If you can't articulate why you’re having a meeting, it’s probably not worth having. So ask yourself, “What are we trying to accomplish with this meeting?”
The bulk of productive meetings have a very straight forward goal. “Creating a road map for the roll out of X” or “Creating a standardized template for Y” are both great meeting reasons. However, sometimes your goals are more abstract. If you need to meet over higher level issues, just remember….
Limit your invite list!
“Discussing Q3 strategy” has a much greater probability of being a time waster if your audience is too broad. While it’s important to include major decision makers, it’s completely reasonable to exclude their staff.
Trust your structure! It took me a while to be comfortable with this myself, but if communication is flowing correctly (both upward and back down) then ideas from every level should make it to meetings on any other level through management conduits.
So you’ve limited your meeting to only the people required, but how do you stay on track?
This one’s a no-brainier. I’d like to think that most companies have a “must assign facilitator” policy in place, but I’ve been surprised by the amount of meetings I’ve been in that have bounced between dead air and ten people talking at once.
A facilitator can guide a meeting, keep things moving, and provide direction to everyone involved. Typically, this position defaults to the person who calls the meeting, but without any direction to play this part I’ve seen upper management sit silent while a meeting devolved into an awkward, disjointed mess. Someone should always either declare themselves in this role or assign the role to someone. An orchestra is only as good as their conductor and all that.
So, you’ve got all your ducks in a row and are prepared to send out meeting invites. But how do you communicate all of the above to the group?
Build an Agenda!
Many companies make the mistake of not having any type of formal structure to their meetings. A group of people without a game plan can have great conversation, but the probability of productivity is very minimal. How are employees expected to prepare if they’re not sure of what will be covered? Take a look at the example agenda I have provided:
We’ve covered most elements on this agenda. The date, start time, end time, and location are seen on the left. There is a line proclaiming who will be facilitating the meeting, giving them the green light to direct conversation. The body contains the meeting objective, so everyone has a fair grasp of what this meeting is working towards. An invite list gives people the ability to prep and confer with other attendants before hand. The topics section lets everyone know what they will be expected to discuss. Action items typically aren’t filled out until the meeting occurs, but are absolutely vital to continued progress.
This agenda doesn’t show it, but typically the bottom of this document would be dedicated to notes. Discussions and conclusions can be jotted down to provide a reminder of what was covered at a later date. Also, this document can then be sent to people who were not at your meeting, keeping everyone on the same page.
Have any more meeting tips? I’d love to hear them!