Effective Meetings – How to prepare and hold them without wasting valuable time.
Every day many non effective meetings take place. Lots of managers spend as much as 50% of their time at work in appointments, meetings and conferences.
Many of these are certainly necessary and serve a purpose. But frequently, meetings are prepared poorly and waste the valuable time of the participants.
You are most likely familiar with meetings that were intended as decision-making committees and ultimately degraded into a free for all. Loosely according to the motto:
“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to get anything done!”
Of course employees need to exchange and discuss information. It is also true that many decisions are best made in meetings, assuming that all decision makers are invited.
But these effective meetings must be prepared well, and be managed efficiently and on point.
When planning an effective meeting, you should ensure that the number of participants is held to a minimum, but is at least large enough to make the required decisions.
Create the proper environment: The success of your appointment begins with adequate preparation:
5 Steps to take before an effective meeting
1. Do you really need a meeting?
Before scheduling an appointment, you should therefore always ask yourself: is it truly necessary to have an official meeting? Is it possible to replace the appointment with e-mails, a telephone call or a telephone conference? If yes, don’t call for a meeting.
2. What is the purpose?
Develop clear expectations about the objective, or the objectives that you hope to achieve with the meeting.
Be specific and write it down. What do you want to achieve with the meeting? Is the purpose only to provide information? Are you planning to discuss certain topics and to develop ideas?
What decisions should be taken in the meeting? A meeting has always to be result oriented. Be crystal clear about the desired outcome!
3. Who should attend the meeting?
Effective meetings should hold value for anyone invited to them. Time is money. If you invite people to your meeting who don’t deliver value or don’t get value out of the meeting: Don’t invite them!
4. Do you have an invitation and an agenda?
Clearly outline what the objectives are and how you expect participants to prepare. For each topic plan a separate agenda item with a description of the objective and schedule the time for it. Don’t overestimate what you can do in the meeting.
When convening a meeting, you should also determine who is responsible for drafting and sending the invitations. Who manages confirmations and cancellations.
5. How long will the meeting last?
Be precise with your timing and planning. When will the meeting start and when will it end? As a rule of thumb: For most of the meetings: Don’t go for more than 1 hour.
Set times for each topic and during the meeting stick to the time table! Most important: Start and end on time! Always!!! You don’t want to jeopardice deadlines of other meetings or projects.
Some more valuable tips for your preparation:
What exactly is the topic?
The invitation to an appointment should clearly outline what the objectives of the meeting are, and how you expect participants to prepare.
For each topic, plan a separate agenda item with a description of the objective and the scheduled time. Don’t forget to designate the person responsible for preparing this agenda item, i.e.:
Information about the status of the new CRM system rollout,
presented by: Mr. Smith, time: 15 min.
What else do we need?
Invitations to your effective meetings are also intended for the individual participants to prepare. Ensure that participants are provided with all required information, such as the agenda, an outline of the topic to be discussed and the minutes of the last meeting. This is best accomplished well in advance, along with the invitation.
What room do we use?
Book the correct room for your event well in advance. You will need a large space for an informational event with many attendees. You may also need to arrange for a microphone system and a projector and screen.
Workshops intended to identify ideas call for sufficient pens, flip charts and pin-boards.
Does everything work?
If you are the person in charge of the meeting you should be there 5 to 10 minutes before. Verify that everything is porperly prepared for a smooth meeting.
During your effective meeting
If you are the moderator you control the meeting. You enforce the rules. Of course, you must adhere to these yourself and be a good role model.
Ensure that your meeting begins on schedule. It goes without saying that all participants should be present on time. Accept late arrivals only if absolutely necessary. Arriving late demonstrates a lack of respect toward you and the other participants.
I vividly recall a production manager who had a large sign posted in all conference rooms of his factory that said:
“Being on-time is a key quality criterion!”
Who takes the notes?
After welcoming the participants, you must first decide who takes the notes: Who will be the note taker?
Normally, meeting notes are sufficient if they are a brief, understandable and to the point written summary of the results. Ensure that any agreed to action plan always has a responsible person and a deadline assigned.
“Participants discussed the new CRM system. Several employees are struggling with the system. A decision was made to conduct employee training.”
Wrong! A decision was apparently made, but the meeting failed to decide who should take care of this and by when.
It’s therefore frequently useful to not only take notes about the meeting results, but to also visualize the results on a blackboard or a flip-chart. This approach will much more readily make you and the participants aware that you forgot to designate a deadline and a responsible person in the heat of the moment.
Who receives the meeting notes and by when?
The meeting notes do not take much time to write. The note taker can frequently write the notes during the meeting and forward these to the participants. But he should have the notes written no later than the next day and have sent these to all participants.
Before sending the notes to other recipients outside of the group of meeting attendees, give them an opportunity to provide any feedback about misunderstandings or omitted results. You should plan at least 1-2 days for this and let the participants know about this in advance.
What about the action plans from the previous meeting?
Did you designate the note taker? Outstanding. You should then review the notes from the previous meeting item by item – assuming that a previous meeting took place.
Were all agreed to action plans implemented as planned? If not, why not? Do you need to extend the deadline or do the participants have to work out a new solution? Ensure that the result is again recorded and that it is brought back up at the next meeting. By taking these steps you are facilitating the implementation efforts.
Rules of conduct for meetings?
- Effective meetings require certain basic rules. The most important ones are:
- Everyone is on-time!
- Anyone should only speak if they have something truly newsworthy to contribute!
- Everyone is brief. Limit verbal contributions to 2-3 minutes!
- Shut off your Cellphones!
- Don’t read your e-mails in the meeting!
I am getting mad when people read e-mails during the meeting. I hate that! It is a typical leadership mistake, if you allow this – oreven worth – if you do it.
Watch the video below to clearly understand how to handle important e-mails in a meeting:
What to do if you run out of time?
When the scheduled time has expired for an agenda item you must decide whether to defer the item, to convene a separate meeting, or to process or prepare the issue in a smaller group.
You are free to discuss this with the participants, but the ultimate decision rests with you as the meeting moderator.
How should you end your effective meeting?
Certainly no later than at the end of the meeting you should schedule a follow-up appointment with the participants, if needed. Afterward you or the note taker briefly summarize the results of the meeting. You end the meeting by thanking all participants.
Now it is your turn to trun your next meeting in an effective meeting.
The inspirational quote:
“Meetings are the backside’s victory over the mind.”