In today’s business world people spend a lot of time in meetings. As time goes by, it is likely that even more time will be spent in meetings. Meetings can be made more productive by following a few simple rules:
- In the planning phase ask “What is this meeting solving for?” Meetings are not ends in themselves, they are means to an end. What is the meeting supposed to accomplish?
- Schedule the meeting well ahead of time. Follow up prior to the meeting to remind them of the time and place.
- Be sure that key people are invited and that they plan to attend. Remind them just before the meeting.
- Prepare an agenda and stick to it! Meetings without an agenda tend to lack focus. The leader must keep the discussion on the topic of the meeting. This may feel awkward or even rude at first, but other attendees will thank you for it and it will become more comfortable as time goes by.
- Start on time. Some Japanese companies actually lock the meeting room door at the precise starting time, those not in the room are not allowed to enter late.
- State the purpose of the meeting clearly at the start of the meeting. Although the purpose is already in the agenda, restating it provides a reminder that this meeting has a purpose and that you intend to stay focused on the purpose. Meetings must be results focused.
- Take minutes. The significant activities, decisions and action-items should be written down during the meeting. Minutes should be read aloud before the meeting adjourns. Minutes should be published and distributed to attendees as soon as possible.
- Summarize from time-to-time. A summary is usually appropriate when moving from one agenda item to the next.
- Actively solicit input from those less talkative. Quiet members may need encouragement to draw them out of their silence.
- Curtail the overly talkative members. This should, of course, be done tactfully. However, it must still be done.
- Manage conflicts. Destructive conflict is the antithesis of communication. Conflicts can often be avoided by presenting groundrules in advance, e.g., no hidden agendas, no personal comments, no negative comments, focus on the future and not on the past, etc.. However, keep in mind that creatively managed conflict is often the source of innovation. Conflict is often evidence of unspoken feelings and rationales and the root cause of the conflict should be determined.
- Make assignments and responsibilities explicit and specific. Confirm that those with assignments agree to them.
- End on time.