We hear so much about the desirability of effective meetings. But how many meetings are truly effective and what do we mean by effective?
Effective meetings leave you energised and with a sense that something has been accomplished.
They basically involve three things:
- Having a clear objective
- Using the time wisely
- Leaving the participants with the sense that a sensible process has been followed.
The Meeting’s Objective
Every meeting has a purpose and this purpose is defined by knowing what outcome we want to achieve. Do you want to reach a decision? Do you want to generate ideas? Or simply pass on information? It is only when you are clear on the outcome you want from the meeting that you can plan the contents/agenda of the meeting and decide who needs to attend.
Using Time Wisely
Everyone these days feels time pressure, it’s one of our scarcest resources. As we all know, time is money. If a key person arrives fifteen minutes late to a meeting of eight people, that person’s lateness is actually costing the company two hours of lost activity. It goes without saying, meetings should start and FINISH on time. Don’t wait for people who are late; it’s necessary to set boundaries and start educating people into good time management habits that ultimately benefit everyone
For a meeting to be effective it needs to be completely streamlined and follow a strict agenda so that nobody’s time is wasted.
In preparing an agenda, think of the following factors:
- Priorities – What points are essential to cover?
- Results – What has to be accomplished in the meeting?
- Participants – Who needs to attend to help accomplish the objective of the meeting? Does everyone need to attend the whole meeting?
- Sequence – What is the most logical order of topics?
- Timing – Determine how much time should be spent on each topic
- Date, time and place
A successful agenda facilitates two things: clarity to participants about what they have to prepare in order to make the most of the meeting and the role they have to perform once the meeting is underway. It’s important of course to distribute the agenda in advance so that participants have the opportunity to make contributions or, conversely, eliminate points that have been resolved already.
Following a sensible and coherent process
Once in the meeting, there are several points to keep in mind which will contribute to the participants’ feeling that the meeting has been effective:
- Make sure that people don’t digress from the topic being discussed
- Always summarise what has been discussed on each topic and note action points, the person responsible for the action and the date of required completion
- Note down items that need further discussion, don’t leave them in the air
- If there are some people dominating the conversation, ask others for their ideas
- Encourage quieter people to talk, especially if you know they have an opinion to give
- Be aware of body language to ensure the meeting stays energised and to avoid the escalation of conflict between participants. It’s better to take a short break sooner rather than later if you feel the meeting is not moving forward quickly enough
Without a doubt, an effective meeting requires a solid objective, a tight agenda and the commitment to involving the participants in the planning, preparation and execution. If these considerations are always adhered to, meetings will become something to look forward to, an occasion where people can feel empowered and productive, knowing they are contributing to the achievement of their department’s and company’s overall objectives.