How often do you walk out of a meeting knowing it was an utter waste of time? You’ve just lost an hour, two hours or perhaps more in a meeting that appeared to serve no purpose or made you wonder why you were invited. In a meeting-obsessed society it happens all too often. Is it poor planning? A lack of decision making? Too many people at the table?
Meetings have value if they are set up correctly with a defined purpose. So how do you ensure that your next meeting will have value, serve a purpose, keep participants engaged and not waste your time or theirs?
Here are a few simple but critical tips in planning your next meeting.
1. Define the Purpose
Before you schedule a meeting, determine first if a meeting is required. Can the topic be handled via email or memo? Is it to deliver critical or sensitive information? Are decisions required? What is the desired outcome of the meeting? Do you have a defined purpose for your meeting with clear outcomes? Bottom line – if you don’t have a clear purpose for your meeting, don’t schedule it.
2. Set the Meeting Agenda
The agenda sets the length of the meeting and specifies the purpose and desired outcome(s) of the meeting. It identifies who owns each topic, how much time is allocated to each topic and any required decisions.
3. Invite the Right People
Who do you really need at the table for the meeting? Too many people can create a chaotic setting or worse, add too many voices when only a few are needed. Determine who is essential to the meeting. Do not allow attendees to invite additional people to your meeting without your consent. This is your meeting – you control who is at the table.
4. Get your Materials out in Advance
This critical step is often abused. Receiving the agenda and required materials a day in advance or the day of leaves little to no time to review which in turn leaves attendees unprepared. Meetings take longer, decisions are not reached and discussions go off topic as a result. Don’t assume that meeting attendees can drop everything at the last minute to read and prepare for the meeting. Ensure enough time is given for review prior to the meeting so attendees have the required information to deliver the intended results.
5. Manage the Meeting Effectively
Stick to the agenda. Start on time and end on time. Don’t delay the meeting waiting for late attendees. If a discussion goes off-side, bring it back to the topic at hand. If the off-side discussion has merit, add it to a parking lot for further consideration or follow-up after the meeting.
6. Take Notes
Don’t rely on memory alone. Either take notes yourself or assign a note taker for the meeting. Critical information and decisions are recorded to reference when needed.
7. Capture Action Items
Record the action items and who holds accountability for completing the task. What is the due date for each deliverable? What is required to complete the task?
To sum it all up – run purpose-driven meetings to achieve the desired outcome and leave attendees with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Meetings do not have to be the bane of your existence…or anyone else’s for that matter.