Meetings have become a regular feature of our lives, both work and personal. How have they usually turned out? Do they always achieve their intended outcomes? Or have they been mostly unproductive and a waste of time? Make no mistake. Meetings are necessary. The key is to have productive ones. To help us achieve its intended outcome, each meeting can be compartmentalized into several phases – “Before the Meeting”, “During the Meeting” and “After the Meeting”. Below are some tips for these areas which can be pretty useful. Let us start with the first one.
Before The Meeting
1. Determine and communicate the purpose of the meeting – WHY are we having it? The WHY provides motivation to be engaged during the session and provides a genuine reason for attendance.
2. Determine who the audience will be. Invited attendees should only be those whose presence is necessary such as key decision makers or subject matter experts. Having too many attendees based on the misguided belief that it adds to the importance of a meeting is a sure way to reduce its effectiveness.
3.Set an agenda! Your agenda though will depend on the purpose of the meeting and the outcomes to be achieved. For instance, a meeting to make a decision on an issue as opposed to a session on creative brainstorming will be different – the timings, flow and outcomes will vary accordingly. Share this agenda with others before the meeting so that all attendees can come prepared.
During The Meeting
1. Kick off the meeting on a high note (use your energy to good effect) and reiterate the purpose of the meeting, outcomes to be achieved, agenda and timelines. Put forward a set of engagement guidelines and get consensus. Ask if anybody would like to add on to those guidelines as well. This will help to create a safe environment for people to participate if there are guidelines like “Keep Confidentiality” or “Don’t Be Judgmental”.
2. Manage the agenda but provide room for flexibility. Don’t feel compelled to stick tightly to the plan. A plan is great, but the planning is more important because it gives you the ability to be flexible and yet accomplish the objectives. Time management is also crucial. People appreciate when you keep to time and give importance to their tight schedules.
3. Focus. Get people to have one conversation only and bring people back to that conversation if they are a lot of side conversations. If there are a lot of side topics, use a parking lot to record and address them if there is still time. With regard to this, I always ask for permission for them to make a change in the meeting before I proceed. I find this to be an effective technique as this allows participants to have a say in the process and share ownership of the meetings.
After The Meeting
1. Thank the participants for their attendance and inputs. Solicit feedback on how the meeting went, best practices to maintain and areas for improvement. Incorporate these into your next meeting and close the feedback loop one way or the other.
2. Be sure to circulate minutes of the meeting to all attendees as well as those invited but could not attend. Also include any other stakeholders who need to be kept informed. Clearly outline the actions, deliverables and timelines to complete them.
3. Do a post-mortem on how the meeting went. Were the objectives accomplished? Were the outcomes the desired ones? What went well and what could have been done better? All these would be fodder for making the next meeting better.
The above wasn’t an exhaustive list of pointers on meeting management. Many more can be found. Regardless of whether it is about managing time, agenda or outcomes, fundamental to it all is really people management.
Please feel free to share your challenges and thoughts with us at Enible. We would be happy to work with you through our coaching sessions to come up with ways to better manage your unique meetings. We encourage you to sign up for our complimentary half-hour sessions through our website if you would like to find out how Enible’s expertise can help you and your organisation.
Have a great meeting ahead! 😊