Let’s Have a Meeting About the Meeting
Meetings to discuss the meeting all day everyday. There becomes a time when I begin to think that I am a professional meeting participant. Sometimes I would look at my weekly schedule and wonder when will I be able to get some work done? Monday meetings are the worst. Okay maybe 8 AM meetings are the worst. But back to Mondays. There are so many distractions especially with the all time favorite opener, “how was your weekend, did you do anything?”. 15 minutes later the discussion may begin. Some days the meeting will go over because of the distractions. I really love meetings with a subject of touch base and it’s scheduled for an hour with no agenda. Now how in the heck am I supposed to get prepared for this generic meeting. Yes, I emailed the organizer but of course I don’t get a response because everybody’s inbox is crazy, probably because they are in meetings. Then there are meetings that I attend and halfway through I wonder why in the world was I invited to this meeting and instantly get annoyed and begin thinking about my to-do list that I need to accomplish when I escape the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, meetings are a necessary evil and are a great way to get things done quickly. All business cannot be handled through email. The trick to meetings is to be efficient. Having said that here are some tips on conducting a successful meeting.
No Research – Just Tips and Just the Tip
First when hosting a meeting focus on eliminating distractions and keeping the participants focused and on topic. The best way to accomplish both is an agenda. This will allow the participants the ability to plan ahead and get mentally prepared. Your agenda should include meeting objectives, topics (in bullet form) with the type of action needed and remember to allow time for Q&A (questions and answers). It’s good practice to print agendas for all of the participants. You should definitely include the agenda on the meeting appointment. Which should be emailed at least a week prior to the meeting. In the meeting appointment, the subject should set the tone for the overall topic.
Second important task for the meeting host is defining the roles of the participants before sending out the appointment. Have you ever been in a meeting and look around and wonder why certain individuals are there. I do. Then I begin thinking about the salaries of the participants and how much the organization is spending in regards to labor for this particular meeting. Back to the tips, based on the topic you should have a champion (someone that will make the final decision), subject matter experts, and a record keeper. There are times when the host will play multiple roles during a meeting.
A really good method to use during a meeting is the “parking lot” method. When the discussion gets off track but you don’t want to forget the topic “parking lot”. Inform the participants that the discussion is important but would be better suited at a later date. The host or record keeper will need to write the topic down and include the parking lot topics in the follow up email. This is also a meaningful way to let the participants know the discussion (even though off topic) was important. Don’t forget to address the parking lot topics at another meeting. You can also ask one of the participants to be the host of that meeting. One more thing about parking lot. There are times when I use a whiteboard for parking lot topics or those large post-it notes. Visuals are always good during meetings and a good way to keep the participants on topic.
So now the time is up and everyone is headed back to their desks. This does not mean it’s over. The host should connect with the record keeper and send out a follow up email. This email should include notes about actions taken, new action items with the assigned person identified and deadlines for completing the tasks, last a short sentence or two about each topic discussed.
Oh yea, one more last thing. Start and end the meetings at the time allotted. Everyone’s time is valuable. Hope you find these tips useful. Have a good one.