We all know the feeling of being called to a meeting and walking out an hour later wondering what on earth it achieved and how we might get that hour of our lives back.
Too often, especially in the corporate world, meetings descend into a gab-fest: plenty of talk, but little action or resolutions that are demonstrable and measurable. You walk out asking yourself whether there is a better way, a way to avoid time wasting and hot air, a way to walk in confident that this time will be well-spent and to walk out knowing it was.
So, if that’s you and you want to avoid it, try these 5 tips for better meetings, whether for business or in a personal or social setting.
1. Have a clear agenda and circulate it before the meeting
Know precisely what the meeting is to cover.
Allot a certain amount of time to discuss each item and stick to it. Go 5 minutes shorter if you can. Everyone loves it when meetings finish early!
Allot a speaker to each agenda item and make space for columns in your agenda that show action items resulting from the discussion, responsibility for those action items and a deadline for each (wherever possible
2. Get all the stakeholders at the meeting
Avoid having to call more than one meeting merely because an important viewpoint is not represented at the meeting.
So, think ahead carefully about who needs to be there, so all relevant views are represented in one place at one time. Consider what each will contribute to the meeting.
3. Ensure decision makers at the meeting
The purpose of meetings is not merely to talk, but to move issues forward to resolution. And ultimately to make decisions.
It’s pointless having a meeting to make actions and move toward decisions if decision makers for each stakeholder viewpoint are not present. That’s asking for trouble. Issues will only be discussed and resolved, only to be opened by the real decision maker and discussed again, possibly with a different outcome.
So, identify the decision makers in advance and get them there.
Alternatively, get the decision maker’s delegate there and – if possible – get the delegate to confirm in advance that they have decision-making authority for the purposes of the meeting.
4. Record action items
Where an agenda item is discussed, it usually results in actions for attendees. Record these: the specifics, not the generalities. What action must be taken after the meeting and a due date for that action.
5. Ensure each action item has a person responsible and a due date
Most importantly, get a person’s name against each action item.
If you don’t, the action won’t get done and no one will be responsible.
Get them wherever possible to commit to a due date to complete the action, or at least a target date with a commitment to update the stakeholders on progress of the action.
Do these things, and you should soon be attending efficient and worthwhile meetings that achieve something.
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