||10 Tips for Meaningful Meetings
From the December 2006
of Windows IT Pro
November 28, 2006
Meetings are essential for team building,
decision making, and
But poorly organized and inefficiently run meetings can drain employee
morale and decrease productivity.
Here's a revealing exercise: In your next meeting, look around the room and
estimate the hourly pay for each attendee. Add up those numbers, tack on an
additional 33 percent for corporate overhead, and multiply that total by the
length of the meeting in hours to gauge the cost of the meeting. You'll
probably be amazed by the number you come up with, and it doesn't even tell
the whole story. Because it's common for IT employees to be paid salaries
rather than hourly wages, it's actually the employees who absorb the cost of
the meeting by having to put in extra hours at the office to make up the
time and complete their work.
Given how expensive meetings can be, the lack of training courses and
information on how to run effective meetings has always surprised me. So
I've compiled the following 10 tips for planning and running efficient,
1.Create goals for the meeting.
Every meeting—even mundane ones such as daily status briefings—should have a
stated goal. Meetings that don't have explicitly stated goals tend to last
the entire duration of the scheduled time—or even longer.
A meeting's success is determined by whether the goals are met
reasonable course of action is decided on. For example, you might schedule a
meeting with the goal of deciding what the review objectives for 2007 will
be. From this goal, you can work backwards to determine who should be
invited to the meeting, what information the attendees will need to have,
and what items need to be on the meeting agenda.
2. Gather agenda items and distribute the agenda
ahead of time.
All meetings should have an agenda that maps to the goals of the meeting.
The agenda should lay out the meeting schedule to ensure that all items and
presenters receive sufficient time.
To establish the agenda early, create a straw man agenda based on your
guess as to the topics that need to be covered during the meeting. Then
distribute the straw man agenda to the people you're inviting to the meeting
and ask that new agenda items or changes to the agenda be sent to you as
soon as possible. Refine and redistribute the proposed agenda as often as
necessary,-but try to finalize it at least one day before the meeting.
3. Invite all relevant people and ensure that
essential people attend.
Few things are more frustrating than scheduling a meeting only to find out
that some or all of the people who are critical to successfully accomplishing the meeting's goals can't attend. Meetings typically consist
of two groups of people: those who are essential for accomplishing the
meeting's goals and those who are interested parties or might
the discussion. For inclusiveness and collaboration purposes, invite both
groups, but ensure that those who are essential to accomplishing the
meeting's goals will definitely
attend. If an invitee sends someone in his or her place, make sure the
substitute has the invitee's proxy; otherwise you might have to
4. Eliminate distractions.
Having everyone's full attention will help accomplish the goals of the
meeting as quickly as possible. Do your best to eliminate distractions
during the meeting from cell phones, laptops, open windows, and everything
else you can think of. If you plan to use a projector, laptop, electronic
whiteboard, or other device, make sure that the equipment works and that you
know how to use it.
5. Assign a facilitator.
If you can't facilitate the meeting, assign someone else to do it. The
facilitator is responsible for ensuring that the meeting
proceeds in a
productive fashion. He or she should end the discussion if it gets off topic
or ceases to be productive.
6. Assign a recorder.
The recorder's role is to record the meeting notes,
decisions made, action
items, and all other relevant information from the meeting. Having good
notes helps you ensure that information doesn't slip through the cracks. You
might want to create meeting notes for some regular or routine meetings,
such as daily staff meetings, ahead of time.
7. End meetings when the goal has been
Meetings should never end just because time is up; instead, they should end
when the meeting's goals have been accomplished or a course of action has
been decided on. If it appears that the allotted time won't be sufficient
for accomplishing the meeting's goals, the facilitator should reserve time
at the end of the meeting to determine what steps are necessary to
accomplish the goals, and action items should be assigned accordingly.
8. Assign action items and move on.
It's important not to get stuck on a topic. The facilitator should identify
action items that have been suggested or assigned, ask the recorder to make
a note of them, and then proceed to the next agenda item. All too often,
meetings get off track because a group begins discussing details of an
action item that aren't relevant to the meeting's goals.
9. Distribute meeting notes.
Get the recorder's meeting notes and distribute them to attendees as needed.
Ensure that the attendees concur with the notes and that everyone who's been
assigned an action item knows what's expected and to whom he or she is
accountable. To help new employees or those who missed the meeting get
caught up quickly, archive the meeting notes on a Web site or in a file
10. Periodically gather feedback.
Periodically gather feedback on how meetings could have been
for the attendees, especially for recurring meetings. You can gather
feedback formally (e.g., through a survey) or informally (e.g., by making it
an agenda item and discussing it during the meeting).
As you progress in your management career, the effectiveness and
efficiency of meetings, whether you schedule them or simply attend them,
will become increasingly important. These 10 tips will help your meetings be
successful and productive rather than painful and boring.