Anyone who has sat through one or two days of meetings knows they are as physically exhausting as playing five sets of tennis. As for decisions being made in meetings I’ve found full grown adults can’t even agree whether they want chocolate donuts with pink frosting or pink donuts with chocolate frosting!
Whether you like meetings or view them with disdain, meetings are here to stay. Peter Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive,
“We meet because people holding different jobs have to cooperate to get a specific task done. We meet because the knowledge and experience needed in a specific situation are not available in one head, but have to be pieced together out of the knowledge and experience of several people.”
Making your company’s meetings more productive will require planning, training, and tenacity. But it can be done! Here are four steps to get you started.
#1 – Pre-Planning
Remember your English teacher and the guidelines for writing a story; Who, What, Where, When, and How? Planning for a productive meeting is much the same, just change the order a bit.
- What do you want to accomplish? Is the meeting purpose educational, problem solving, or systems control? The purpose of the meeting and the meeting objective are the most important factors to consider when planning for a productive meeting.
- How do you expect to accomplish the meeting objective? Based on the meeting purpose, what is the best way to accomplish the meeting objective?
- Who must be in attendance? Make sure the necessary people are in attendance before you consider inviting the “nice to have” people.
- When does the meeting need to be convened? Is there a problem or other time-driven issue that dictates the meeting time?
- Where should the meeting be held? Conference rooms are nice for short meetings, but consider off-site locations when a whole day or more is needed.
#2 – Agenda Development
Developing a solid, focused agenda is a necessary element of the meeting planning process. Begin by establishing the agenda with input from the team, craft the agenda allowing adequate time for the topics to be covered and needed breaks, then and only then, distribute the agenda to the team along with instructions for pre-work that needs to be completed.
- Develop a preliminary agenda based on the meeting purpose.
- Craft the final agenda leaving time for two short breaks every four hours plus a non-working lunch, and or dinner, as appropriate.
- Detail in the agenda any pre-work that needs to be completed. Forward the completed agenda to the attendees with plenty of lead time so they can thoroughly prepare for the meeting.
#3 – Meeting Operations
Learning to run a productive meeting will take time and effort. Here are nine guidelines to get you started:
- Room Layout. Layout should facilitate accomplishment of the meeting purpose.
- Start Time. Always start exactly on time.
- Opening. The opening is critical since it sets the tone of the meeting.
- Meeting Principles. Meetings should also have rules. Rules for meetings can be different depending on the meeting purpose.
- Parking Lot. Use a flip chart to make note of parking lot issues and circle back to them as time permits or need dictates.
- Scribe. Appoint someone to document key points of the meeting. This should include agenda topics, decisions made, persons responsible, follow-up steps needed, etc.
- Facilitator. Appoint a facilitator who will make sure that the meeting principles are followed.
- Timekeeper. Appoint someone to keep track of the meeting schedule. If a topic is really important you may choose to extend the time and modify other elements of the agenda.
- Meeting Close. Conclude the meeting on-time. Review the meeting objective and key points of agenda items. Focus on results achieved and follow-up work to be completed.
#4 – Meeting Follow-Up
There is still work to be done after the meeting is over:
- Meeting Evaluation. Evaluate the meeting in terms of effectiveness and productivity. Make notes on what worked well, and what needs improvement.
- Meeting Notes. Review the meeting notes from the scribe for completeness and accuracy. Distribute to attendees and other parties as appropriate immediately after the meeting.
One Final Thought
Paul, writing to the Corinthians, provided instructions for the orderly worship of God. He stressed that words must be for the edification of the body, and that only one person should speak at a time. Concluding these instruction he wrote, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:32).
There are many Biblical examples that highlight the importance of an organized approach to work. One of my favorites is depicted when Jesus feeds the 5,000 by organizing the people into groups, having the disciples hand out food, and then having them pick up the leftovers (Mark 6).
There is no reason for the meetings we run to be an unproductive mass of confusion. We can, with a little thought and planning, prepare ourselves and our employees to run meetings productively.
These four action steps will get you started on the path to making your meetings more productive, but if you want to take your meeting productivity to the next level I encourage you to download the attached whitepaper. In this whitepaper, I expand on the four action steps and cover:
- Six reasons meetings are not only here to stay, but more important than ever.
- Nine primary purposes of meetings.
- Why it is important to think of meetings as an asset.
- A case study based on a meeting I attended.
- Meeting Notes that provide an outline of how you can train your own team on meeting productivity.
- And finally, a fun look at 15 common meeting problem people and how to recognize them in your next meeting!
Click here to download this bonus whitepaper: Make Your Next Meeting Your Most Productive Meeting Ever!
Join the Conversation!
As always questions and comments are welcome! Have your struggled to make meetings productive in your organization? What have you found works well?
Category: Skills | Leadership Development