Mention the word “meeting” at a workplace and you will most likely be greeted by looks of dread accompanied with groans and moans. Unfortunately, many company meetings are ineffective and unproductive. Too long, disorganized, non-participatory, and a lack of action items are just some of the common symptoms that plague today’s boardrooms.
How can your company ensure that its meetings are always effective?
Here are some tips:
Do You Need to Meet? – When an issue, question or idea arises in a company, most managers immediate response is to call a meeting. However, many times a memo, mass email or report is more than sufficient. Take time to step back and determine if a meeting is truly needed.
What are the Objectives of the Meeting? – Once you have determined that a meeting is the best way to address your situation, then you need to set objectives beforehand. You must have a clear understanding as to what you would like the group to accomplish by the end of the meeting. Will you have a system flow designed? A new set of rules and regulations? A solution to a problem encountered on the production floor? A decision to hire more labour? Setting objectives is crucial in determining whether your meeting will be a success or not.
Who Should Attend? – Understanding the objectives of the meeting will help you determine who the right people to attend are. Get input from others as to who should attend. Once you have your list of attendees, contact each one of them and explain to them why their attendance is important and valued. Be sure to give them plenty of notice as to when, where and why (remember the objectives?) they are meeting.
Create an Agenda and Follow it. – Effective agendas will have the following:
- Date, start and end time, location and attendees
- Meeting roles such as Facilitator, Note Taker, Timer, etc.
- A brief overview of the meeting objectives.
- A list of the items to be discussed and their purpose.
- A list stating who will address each item and the time limit for each.
- The results, actions or decisions expected.
Once the agenda is created, be sure to distribute it to the attendees before the meeting starts. That way, participants will be able to prepare, research and bring supporting materials to the meeting.
Start on Time – Start your meeting immediately when it’s supposed to start. Do NOT wait for latecomers as this will just reinforce their behaviour. Thank the attendees for their time and welcome them.
Choose a Facilitator – As you read in tip #4, meeting roles should be assigned beforehand with the distribution of the agenda. The most crucial role in an effective meeting is that of Facilitator or Meeting Chair. The definition of a facilitator is “Someone who makes progress easier”. With that in mind, select an individual with the right personality, attitude and skills to guide the group through the agenda to ensure that the meeting is on topic, on time, participative and under control. If you would like to see the value of a good Facilitator at work, simply watch a session of Canadian Parliament and observe the Speaker of the House keep your elected representatives in line.
Input from ALL – The Facilitator should ask for everyone’s input. In an effective, attendees are encouraged to speak about their feelings and opinions, not just the facts. The attendees will appreciate that their voices were heard and your meeting will gain from the diverse range of opinions, solutions and ideas.
Take a Break – If your meeting is over one hour in length, periodic breaks will be most welcome by the participants. Start and end the breaks on time.
Assign Action Items – As the meeting progresses through a discussion item, do not finish without deciding on how to act on it. Assign tasks and projects IMMEDIATELY as they arise during the meeting. This step is crucial to ensuring that meaningful results will come from the meeting.
Take Notes – Notes are an important reminder of the action items created and are a summary of what happened for people who could not attend.
Review Your Meeting Process – Towards the end of the meeting, take time to review with the participants: What went well during this meeting? What needs to improve for our next meeting? Be sure to assign action items.
Closing – At the end of the meeting, review the action items and assignments. If possible, set the time for the next meeting. Thank the participants and end on time.