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Tips for Managing Effective Meetings


Every meeting should follow a structure if you want it to be effective, but more importantly you want everybody at the meeting to want to be there, and to be able to see the value, otherwise it is just more words that take time out of your day.

The following "W" questions are a guideline:
  1. Why are we having this meeting?
  2. Who needs to be at it to be effective?
  3. What steps are being taken to ensure that the jobs of the people at the meeting are being handled?
  4. Where is it going to take place for maximum efficiency (Video Conference or Skype instead of travel)
  5. When will it have the least impact on productivity?
  6. Will there be an action plan with deadlines at the end?
  7. What positive feedback can we share that will create the right environment for positive engagement?
While a formal agenda is not necessary for every meeting, our BCX strategist, Paddy Gray, taught me a valuable meeting lesson and that is to start your meeting by querying what each attendee hopes to achieve by being there.    And end the meeting by confirming that the objectives were achieved.   It not only focuses everybody at the start, but ensures that there is a way forward.

When the meeting is external, or new people are there, do start with introductions, and the reasons for their attendance.  If somebody is late, acknowledge their presence, and ensure that they are briefly brought up to date.  (Not more than 30 seconds unless they are the key attendee).   If you don't, you run the risk of the late arrival not understanding the context of the discussion, and therefore not being able to contribute.   Ask one of the attendees to do the summary, and it becomes a useful management tool.

Managing people who are habitually late is another whole conversation.

Running a meeting
  1. Everybody should know why they are at the meeting, as well as why everybody else is.  That sets the scene for positive interaction.
  2. There should be a clear purpose and objective for the meeting, which is shared.
  3. All attendees should state what they hope to achieve from being at the meeting
  4. A time frame should be set and adhered to, and confirmed with all attendees (however there can be meetings which should run until agreement is reached)
  5. Open discussion makes for more effective meetings, so ensure that even the quieter people are given the opportunity to share their views.    I have heard that the meeting chair typically speaks for around 50% of each meeting, and I can see I fall into that trap very easily, so I make a point of asking for input from everybody.
  6. Summarise each item and confirm that there is an action and a responsible person, as well as a delivery deadline.  People tend to follow through more effectively when they have agreed to do something in front of witnesses!
  7. Set a follow up date for feedback and continuity at the meeting, or make the follow up part of somebody's action plan.   
  8. And, of course, follow up with written minutes or a summary of the action plan and the relevant responsibilities.
Meetings should always serve a purpose, it might just be about better communication and sharing information to help build a stronger network of skills and understanding, or it could be about very clear deliverables.   Whatever the purpose, it is important to measure the effectiveness and the impact on a regular basis, because every business interaction should be about moving the business forward.

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