Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to hold a productive meeting

Meetings are a dreaded daily event in offices across the world, but are an inevitable fact of corporate life. Meetings are meant to bring a group of people together to discuss an issue or problem and develop a solution.

So, why do most of us leave meetings with the feeling that nothing was accomplished and thinking about all the work that could have been done if we weren’t all stuck in that stuffy board room together.

Here’s a revolutionary idea - let’s make meetings meaningful again.

Stop wasting everyone’s time and follow these guidelines on how to hold a productive meeting or training session:

Prepare an agenda. Type it up, print it out and give everyone a copy. It doesn’t have to be a detailed play-by-play, but show people the time line you expect for the meeting. Everyone likes to know how much of the meeting has passed, and how much longer they have until they can get back to their desk.

Set start, end and break times ... and stick to them. One of the biggest gripes people have about meetings is that they run over the allotted time. Whether it’s because of a late start, or too many off-topic conversations, it’s annoying. No one ever said, “Oh, I am so delighted that meeting ran an extra 20 minutes long.”

Make it clear – No Laptops Allowed. You could also add Blackberrys and any other annoying electronic gadgets to that warning. Allow break times for people to check emails or phone calls. Ask people to politely leave the room if there is an emergency call.

Schedule the people who matter. Your meeting will be more productive if the only people in the room are those who are affected by the topic at hand. If you need certain people for only a short amount of time, have the person show up at a certain time. It will also help move topics along if you know there is a guest coming 20 minutes before the end of the meeting.

Be a fair referee. If you notice a topic branching off and growing in the wrong direction, do you best to pull it back in. If two attendees start chatting about another topic, ask them if it can be discussed at a later time. Quickly move on to the next item on the agenda.

Commit to action. Meetings are usually set up to produce results or resolve a problem. After discussing the issue ask the group what should be done about it. Go a step further and assign tasks and responsibilities with set deadlines.

Remember the last rule - stay consistent and follow these guidelines each and every time you hold a meeting. You never know, people may actually start looking forward to your meetings. If not, bring food, works every time.


Anonymous said...

my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

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