A meeting is only as effective as the person who leads it. When most managers and executives often spend half their work time in meetings, it's shocking to hear so many complaints: "Meetings are a waste of time!" "Why was I invited to that meeting in the first place?" "We never get anything accomplished."
In business, meetings are a way of life. In fact, studies show that twice as many meetings and conferences are being held today as compared with just ten years ago.
As a skilled meeting leader, you can get more done in less time, increase teamwork and demonstrate your ability to get results.
Let's examine what it takes to run a good meeting. The first questions to ask yourself are:
-IS A MEETING NECESSARY? Could I get the job done with a memo or phone call? Use a phone call or memo if you want to communicate routine information that is likely to be well understood, accepted or does not require a group decision. Call a meeting if you want to get acceptance of ideas, resolve conflicting viewpoints, obtain immediate reactions and understanding or draw on the group's creativity to solve a problem.
-WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH? If you don't know, you can bet the participants will spend most of the meeting time bouncing from one subject to the next. State your objective in specific terms. For instance, "Decide on a more efficient procedure to balance workflow" is much better than "Discuss our workflow problems." if the group knows the outcome they're working toward, they will tend to remain focused on that objective.
-WHO SHOULD BE THERE? Include only those who can contribute and benefit from attending. People who have nothing to contribute will only be frustrated or bored. Beware of inviting people solely because of their title or out of habit. When dealing with a controversial issue, it's often wise to invite people who resist change or disagree. The meeting may produce sparks, but will prevent fire-fighting later.
Another thing you should do is assign prework to save valuable time once the meeting begins. This includes doing your own prework.
Develop an agenda designed to get the results you're after and send it in advance, if possible. Anticipate participants' reactions and how you will deal with them.
Determine the materials needed, the meeting location, as well as the task. (Always set an ending time and try to stick to it, This is not only courteous, but encourages the participants to move at a faster pace.)
When you get to the meeting itself, start on time. Don't punish those who are punctual by making them wait for those who are not. Your opening remarks should include the meeting's objective, background information, time constraints and a description of the way you want to run the meeting.
It's also helpful to explain why you have invited each of them, so they know how you want each of them to contribute.
Many leaders record the meeting on a flipchart mounted on an easel in full view of the group. As the pages are filled, they are torn off and taped to the wall.
This technique keeps everyone together and provides a written record. Another advantage is that members of the group feel that their ideas have been heard because they are written down.
Recording the meeting is particularly important during group problem-solving sessions. All brainstorming ideas can be listed, and members have an easier time generating ideas when they know each one will be captured for later evaluation.
Specific action plans can be charted, recording who will do what, how and when.
When the meeting is over, these giant sized flipchart minutes can be typed and distributed so everyone has a clear understanding of what was said and agreed to.
Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized training (leadership skills, presentation skills, internal consulting skills & facilitation skills), team conflict resolution and retreat facilitation.
Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (800) 348-1944, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.JoanLloyd.com