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 get-togethers must be prepared well, and be managed efficiently and effectively.
Is a meeting even necessary?
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?
When planning a 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.
Steps to take before the meeting
Create the proper environment: The success of your appointment begins with adequate preparation:
What is the objective?
Develop clear expectations about the objective, or the objectives that you hope to achieve with the meeting.
- Is the purpose only to provide information?
- Are you planning to discuss the topic and to develop ideas?
- Or is the purpose of the meeting to make decisions?
Who should write the invitation?
When convening a meeting, you should determine who is responsible for drafting and sending the invitations. Who manages confirmations and cancellations?
How long will it last?
How long will the meeting last? Do not forget to schedule a break after 90 minutes for meetings that are scheduled to last several hours.
What 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?
The invitation to the meeting is also intended for the individual participants to prepare. Ensure that participants are provided with all required information, such as the minutes of the last meeting. This is best accomplished well in advance, along with the invitation.
What room to 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 the 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 characteristic!”
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 is 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?
Efficient 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!
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 the 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.
Please leave a comment! Tell me, what rules have I forgotten to mention in order to run efficient meetings?
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