I switch off the light in the meeting room and with a smile and notebook in my hand return to my office. After this one-hour meeting with my team I have a good feeling. We have clarified all necessary question marks and now we are able to jump into the work while knowing what and why.
But I do remember feeling desperate after leaving many other meetings. Too much talking, nothing really solved and moreover the time management was not kept. Huge pile of incomplete and unstructured tasks that have come out of it. I even do not want to go into solving them.
Therefore, I decided to organize my meetings differently. I do not want neither myself nor my colleagues to consider our meetings as waste of time.
We live in the time of long-distance communication. There are plenty of possibilities how to be in touch with people, them being anywhere in the world.
Face to face meetings have something on top
On the other hand, a meeting face to face has something that none of the modern tools can replace. It is hard to express with words. It is about the perception of complete body talk, tone, looks… all that get lost “on the line”, even the best one.
Nevertheless, there is one big BUT. Be sincere. How many really effective,
useful meetings you have been in during last two years? Openly? I probably not
in more than few. Each of them could have been more effective and beneficial.
Some even much more.
Like the one I was in not so long ago. In the morning all come full of
energy and enthusiasm to reach needed results. The start is postponed – by
fifteen, thirty minutes. Just because, of course, there are plenty
administrative tasks that need be solved. No agenda exists. Preparation means
preparation from few out of many people in that meeting and nobody requires
elsewise. The concentration dies after twenty minutes. Everyone jumps to speak
about topics that have nothing in common with the meeting, they try to solve
things that should have been solved before. No time for lunch, otherwise we
would not manage to do it. And so on…
We consider meeting as something that “needs to be done even if useless”
The problem is that we a priori consider meetings as something that “needs to be done even if useless”. And we do not require the timeline or agenda to be kept. We accept in advance we will be coming home late because it is not appropriate to leave the meeting room at the time it was supposed to end.
So, let’s try it differently next time.
When you want to plan a meeting next time first answer the following questions:
why we need the meeting? What is its target?
Could we solve it elsewise? Maybe on the phone, by e-mail or net meeting?
If the answer to the second question is no, continue planning:
You know the target already. Write down exactly what should be the outcome.
Choose the participants. Invite all those you really need. Consider if it is for someone a loss of time, maybe it would be enough to send him minutes or notes.
Create an agenda. Including the fact who is responsible (or will be presenting) for which part. The agenda must include the time dedicated to each point.
Choose form. Is it really necessary to prepare huge presentation? It requires usually more time for preparation as well as for the time in the meeting room itself. Sometime, when you wish to have practical meeting, a list of points on one slide (just not to forget something) might be more than sufficient.
Do not forget to plan it long enough in advance. Sending invitation for a meeting next day where you expect one-hour presentation from a colleague is an absolute “no go”.
And how to manage the meeting itself?
One ex-colleague told me after a meeting led by me: “I will invite you to
every meeting from now on.” :-) What he liked so much?
Keep the plan. Always. Seems rigid? Maybe, but in this way, you will get trust. If your meeting is planned for one hour, it will be one hour. If the presentation should be 20 minutes, it will be 20 minutes. As people will see that you request keeping the time, next time they will focus more to keep the plan, too.
If there rises an unexpected discussion on some points during the meeting, some further questions appear, set a separate meeting dedicated to it. Give people time to prepare.
Always be prepared. Preparation (proper one) should be a matter of course for everyone taking part. Not only those who present. If everyone is aware of the agenda in advance and prepares respective questions, the meeting will be gradient and effective.
If you find out that participants are not prepared, finish the meeting and plan a new date. Make clear that the reason is to give everyone time to prepare properly. There is no sense in trying to prepare yourself during the meeting. Firstly, you cannot make it anyway, secondly you waste the time of the remaining participants and last but not least you will make plenty of mistakes because of wrong concentration. Moreover, the feeling of guilt works in all ages.
At the beginning set who will make notes/ minutes and look after keeping time.
During the meeting always emphasize which tasks needs to be put into minutes as well as the responsible person and deadline.
Send the meeting minutes immediately after the meeting
Check continuously the tasks and their progress. Urge where needed.
Those are only few steps that can turn an impractical meeting from which everyone will come out disgruntled into an effective one that will power them with energy to work.
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