8 tips to conduct effective meetings

August 13, 2010

meeting 300x175 8 tips to conduct effective meetingsEveryone hates meetings.

I know I do.

They’re usually time sinks and for the most part aren’t effective in resolving anything. Most of us walk out of a meeting saying, “Now to get some real work done.”

Something’s wrong with this picture, right?

I get it that sometimes you just need to have face-to-face conversations, but for the most part meetings can be avoided.

I’ve identified three types of meetings that usually eat up my “work” time:

  • Working meeting: usually called to discuss one subject, such as a work issue or a task-related to a project, with the hope that by the end of the meeting, the group will have decided on some action items.
  • Status meeting: is for people to exchange status updates the round robin way. It’s usually a way to update the rest of the team on what each member has been working on and sometimes also serves as a time to get recommendations. Information-sharing and some brainstorming is at the core of such meetings.
  • Crisis meeting: there really isn’t any way to get past this one, is there? These are the absolutely urgent, mandatory meetings that take precedence over everything else. They usually don’t last too long, but often result in an immediate increase in work load.

So, how does one go about conducting these meetings effectively?

1. Get rid of those chairs in the conference room: Yes, that’s right — move ‘em out. When people have to stand, meetings end up not only being shorter but more focused. You won’t have the boss telling you the story about his last fishing trip when he isn’t plopped on a cushy seat. If you can’t get rid of comfy chairs, at least get some that are really uncomfortable.

2. Have an agenda: I know you think it’s overrated, but having an agenda for a working meeting is critical. Once you have the start and end time written down and a clear objective defined, you’ll find these meetings to not be a waste of time. Also, send the agenda out at least two to three days in advance, so attendees have a chance to review any material that will be discussed at the meeting.

3. Clearly outline the objective of the meeting: Having a goal that says XXX outcome needs to be achieved will streamline your meeting. To “discuss” or “review” is generally not a desirable objective. Why have a meeting unless plans are to be developed or responsibilities are to be assigned? Sample objective statements are:

To decide on a course of action…
To agree on the best alternative…
To identify actions to be taken…
To solve a specific problem…
To develop a plan for improvement…
To assign responsibilities…

4. Minimize the number of participants: Invite only those people who are absolutely necessary to achieve the objective of the meeting. Those who aren’t directly concerned with the objective will be fidgety, cause distraction, and in general come out of the meeting thinking what a glorious waste of time that was. If you’re on the other end of this situation and get invited to a meeting where your role isn’t clear, ask the meeting coordinator why you’re needed to be physically present. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why are we having this meeting?” or “Why am I required?”

5. Start and end on time: Don’t wait for tardy attendees and don’t go over the time limit set in the agenda. If you prepare the agenda carefully, you will have covered all the important stuff at the beginning of the meeting. Also, having an agenda that has specific time limits for each agenda item keeps things on track.

6. Create a parking lot: For those items not on the agenda, but have come to light during the course of the discussion. At the end of the meeting, review the parking lot, decide resolution, and assign foanimals meeting1 8 tips to conduct effective meetingsllow-up, if appropriate.

7. Take minutes if necessary: But don’t make the mistake of recording every single comment; concentrate on getting the general meaning of the discussion and taking enough notes that you can summarize it later. Remember that minutes are the official record of what happened, not exactly what was said, at a meeting.

8. Sum it up: When all items on the agenda have been discussed and agreed upon, ask the chair to sum up the meeting. Everyone should review the follow-up actions, nod their heads, and get on with business.

Also a note on etiquette:

  • Maintain civility in all your discussions. Even when you vehemently disagree with someone, stay professional.
  • Keep your cell phone in vibrate mode and don’t be watering your Farmville plants (if you are doing that, it shows you shouldn’t have been part of this meeting in the first place; did you ask the “Whys?” outlined in #4?)

There are many online tools available now to reduce, if not completely eliminate, the need for status meetings; for the other two kinds, keep them short and sweet and you’ll find they aren’t a complete waste of time after all.

Got other tips to share?

Fire away.

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F 8 tips to conduct effective meetings

dp seal trans 16x16 8 tips to conduct effective meetingsCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

You might also enjoy:

Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses to 8 tips to conduct effective meetings

  1. VyankateshNo Gravatar on August 14, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Nice points Mansi.

    One important aspect, I think, is managing the questions which arise in review meetings.

    My observation is that questions in the middle of a review walk through often result in derailment of the meeting itself – many a times due to digressing from the main topic.

    But taking the questions at the end of the meeting prevents effective reviews.

    It is necessary to setup an effective framework for taking such questions – like taking up questions which can be answered in s crisp manner immediately – while parking the complex and longer questions to the end of the meeting.

    Good post altogether.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on August 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm

      Great insight, Vyankatesh. Thanks!

  2. Christina Tan-AoyagiNo Gravatar on August 17, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Great tips, Mansi! Another thing is I think people should not go over the agenda again for someone who comes in late for the meeting. It is a waste of time for other people who are on time for the meeting.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on August 17, 2010 at 7:14 am

      Great addition, Christina! Great to hear from you :-)


More in poetry (5 of 46 articles)