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December 12, 2017

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Ten Tips for Better Meetings

We've got to stop meeting like this!

Do you dread your next meeting? Do meetings seem longer and longer, yet less productive? Here's ten ways to help you get the most out of meeting time.

  1. Always have a timed agenda done prior to the meeting. What does timed mean? Simply that all agenda items have a specific amount of time allocated. It may be necessary to re-negotiate the time allocated at the beginning of the meeting. That's OK. The important thing is to make sure the meeting participants stick to the agreed upon time parameters. The benefit? Everyone knows exactly when the meeting will end, and what can be accomplished given the amount of time that is available.

  2. Use roles. Some of the more common meeting roles are Leader, Facilitator, Recorder or Scribe, TimeKeeper and Active Participant. Some of the roles may be the same from meeting to meeting; however, many of them can be switched. Make sure that each person knows exactly what the roles encompass. The benefit? More structure in roles means getting more done in the long run.

  3. Make sure the agenda is distributed at least three days prior to the meeting to all participants. This will give those involved the opportunity to gather pertinent information and to also ask questions on any of the items prior to the meeting. The benefit? A more prepared committee or team.

  4. Generate more participation by using round-robin methods. This simply means to go around the table or room to elicit everyone's input. People at the meeting are expected to participate. During a go around, others in the meeting should refrain from judging or evaluating statements that are made. The purpose of this is to get everyone involved. The benefit? More diverse input means more diverse options.

  5. Practice active listening skills. Use reflections to check for understanding. Many discussions could be shortened and more productive if there was more effort towards understanding the other point of view. The benefit? Better understand of critical items during the meeting means better decision-making.

  6. Have you ever sat through a meeting and wondered, "Why am I here?." Have you ever not been invited to a meeting and wondered, "Why wasn't I there? I have input that might make a difference in the final decisions that are being made!" Ask yourself, "Are the right players at this meeting?" When calling a meeting, make sure the people who are there really need to be there. And, if it might not be clear to someone why he or she was invited, take a few minutes to offer some context for his or her role.

  7. Use check sheets to assess the effectiveness of the meeting. Checksheets should be used on a regular basis - for example every meeting or every third meeting. This gives the group a feedback mechanism for assessing the effectiveness of the decision-making, group climate, leadership and other areas. One person in the meeting should be designated to compile the results and then provide feedback at the next regular meeting. Make sure that this is an agenda item….not an afterthought. The benefit? A higher level of group participation and commitment to group initiatives.

  8. Set the date, place and establish the agenda for the next meeting at the end of the current meeting. This gives everyone at the meeting opportunity to decide on the items of most importance and the date that the items will be discussed. A must for every meeting…each person comes with calendar in hand! The benefit? This eliminates frustrating and time consuming telephone tag, or setting a time that someone who is critical to the decision-making cannot attend.

  9. Check the room before the meeting. Someone in the group (usually the Chairperson, Team Leader or whoever is considered "in charge") should check the meeting room to ensure that logistics are in order. For example, is the room large enough or too large, is there enough seating, is the room accessible to all in the group, is the correct equipment available and working? The benefit? No more delays due to poorly planned meeting environments.

  10. Establish guidelines on how this particular meeting group will operate. For example, some of the more common guidelines are, "Start and End on Time", "Everyone Participates", "Everyone's Ideas are to be Respected, "Decisions Made by Consensus" and so on. The benefit? Everyone in the group has focus on what are acceptable norms, and when the meeting gets off-track (which almost all do at some point), it's easier to regroup and refocus.

- Lynda Ford

Lynda Ford, author of this article, is president of The Ford Group, a consulting firm dedicated to improving organizations through their greatest potential resource…people. Her first book, FAST52: Building an Exceptional Workplace Environment has just been published. She can be contacted by e-mail at lynda@fordgroup.com, or by phone at (315) 339-6398.

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