Holding Effective Meetings Can Be Easier than You Think
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I'm sure you've experienced those typical "headache" meetings! You know the
kind I'm talking about -- the ones where the key players are running late, no
one knows exactly why the meeting was called, and there's not a single agenda in
sight. Everyone's sitting around wondering, "Will this last 20 minutes or will
we be here all day?" It's impossible to tell!
Then, once the meeting finally gets off the ground, the real pandemonium
starts. For instance:
* You may hear some people yak incessantly on the sidelines, or one or two
folks might jump on a soapbox and dominate the discussion. * The meeting topics
can bounce back and forth so many times that no one can keep track of what's
actually being discussed. * If a decision results, no one knows whether it was
ever recorded or even whether anyone agreed to it.
To counteract these frustrating problems, this article reveals four
techniques for running great meetings and following up afterward.
First, How Big Is the Problem?
What are the consequences of holding ineffective meetings? Meetings held for
the wrong reasons, that don't involve the right participants, or that don't use
a disciplined meeting process can waste the time, resources, and money of the
Not only do they have the potential to make the participants feel perpetually
frustrated and unproductive, they're also a financial drain. Just in the area of
cost, have you ever tried to calculate the expense of holding even a single
If you multiply the number of people sitting in a room by an average hourly
rate, and add the cost of employee benefits (overhead), you'll see what I mean.
And that's the average cost for a holding a single meeting, not including
expenses for any related travel, food, or equipment.
You can multiply that figure across the entire company to estimate the cost
of meetings held per month and per year. As you can imagine, holding meetings,
especially unproductive ones, can be an expensive proposition!
How Can You Turn Your Meetings Around?
In contrast to the chaotic, unplanned encounters, at well-run meetings,
participants collaborate to produce a valuable outcome. They also leave the
meeting feeling that their time was really well spent. Making simple changes to
the protocols for running meetings can shift the dynamics into a highly
effective mode. To achieve excellent results, try the following:
1. Be sure you really need a meeting before scheduling it.
Respect your colleagues' busy schedules. Don't schedule a meeting unless:
* You really need the cooperation of several people at once. * The attendees
must contribute to, or will be affected by, a vital decision. * You want various
people to listen and respond to what others have to say.
2. Send out a meeting notice and agenda well in advance.
Give your attendees plenty of advance notice -- for example, at least a week.
Also consider whether any of your invitees are likely to be unavailable on that
date. If so, you may want to postpone the meeting or seek alternates.
Be sure your meeting notice includes all of the key information: Include the
1) meeting date, 2) starting and ending times, 3) purpose, 4) attendees, 5)
location with directions or access instructions, and 6) the proposed agenda.
That way, everyone will know exactly what to expect, what to do, what their time
commitment is, and what's in it for them!
3. Conduct the meeting using good facilitation techniques.
Here are some of the most effective techniques professional facilitators use:
* Start on time; don't reward latecomers by waiting for them. * Decide on
times for each topic and stick to them. * Follow the agenda; avoid hopping
around. * Discourage side discussions. * Set a "no interrupting" rule. * Stop,
repeat, and clarify the points people are making. * Test for closure before
moving on to the next agenda item. * Record decisions, action items, and due
dates for each topic. * Summarize the key decisions and action items before
closing. * End on time.
4. Follow up afterward with summaries and action items.
After you've completed all of that hard work, you can avoid having everyone's
ideas and decisions simply melt away because no one sent out a good summary or
bothered to track the agreed-upon assignments.
A summary doesn't have to be fancy or very detailed to be effective, but it
should contain enough substance to inform the people who weren't there, for
example. The summary should list 1) each topic, 2) the key points of each topic
discussion, 3) all decisions made, and 4) action items and due dates. At the
end, it may include the next meeting's 5) proposed agenda, 6) date and time, and
7) location, if known.
With a little fine-tuning, you can convert your meetings from profit stealers
into profit boosters. The process will transform the quality of group
collaborations and breathe new life into your morale and productivity!
Copyright 2005 Adele Sommers
About the Author
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the award-winning "Straight Talk on
Boosting Business Performance" success program, and specializes in helping
people align their life passions with their business purpose. To learn more
about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit
her site at http://LearnShareProsper.com
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-06-16 21:30:29 in Employee Articles