Get More From Your Meetings

Have you ever sat in a meeting and felt frustrated that nothing actually got accomplished ? And then sat in the inevitable follow-up meeting to try to do what was supposed to have been done in the first meeting? Unfortunately this happens all too often.

Here are some basic steps you can take when conducting your own meetings to be sure you accomplish what you need to with the meeting and make the best use of your time and everyone else’s as well.

Before the Meeting

  • Don’t overcrowd the meeting. Only invite those necessary for reaching a decision.
  • Choose an appropriate time. The necessary facts and people should be available. Schedule the meeting for before lunch, another engagement, or quitting time if this is appropriate to the type of meeting being called.
  • Choose an appropriate place. Accessibility of location, availability of equipment, size of the room, and so forth are all important.
  • Define the purpose clearly in your own mind before calling the meeting.
  • Distribute the agenda in advance. This helps the participants prepare; or at least forewarns them.
  • Time-limit the meeting and the agenda. Allocate a time to each subject proportional to its relative importance.

During the Meeting

  • Start on time. There is no substitute.
  • Assign timekeeping and note-taking responsibilities. Keep posted on the time remaining and the amount behind schedule if any.
  • Start with and stick to the agenda. “We’re here to…The purpose of this meeting is…The next point to be decided is…”
  • Manage interruptions. Allow interruptions for emergency purposes only.
  • Accomplish your purpose. What was the specific purpose of the meeting-to analyze a problem, to generate creative alternatives, to arrive at a decision, to inform, to coordinate? Was it accomplished?
  • Restate conclusions and assignments to insure agreement and to provide reinforcement or a reminder.
  • End on time. Adjourn the meeting as scheduled so that participants can mange their own time. Placing the most important items at the start of the agenda insures that only the least important will be left unfinished.
  • Use a meeting evaluation checklist as an occasional spot check. Questions should be answered by each participant before leaving. Was the purpose of the meeting clear?
    • Was the agenda received in advance?
    • Were any materials essential for preparation also received in advance?
    • Did the meeting start on time? If not, what happened?
    • Was the agenda followed adequately, or was the meeting allowed to wander from it unnecessarily?
    • Was the purpose achieved?
    • Were assignments and deadlines fixed where appropriate?
    • Of the total meeting time, what percentage was not effectively utilized? What occurred?

    The evaluations, signed, should be collected for the chairperson’s immediate review.

After the Meeting

  • Send the minutes out quickly. Concise minutes should be completed and distributed within 48 hours at the outside. If people can rely on receiving well-written minutes, those who really aren’t needed will be freed from attending. Minutes are also a reminder and a useful follow-up tool, as shown in the next suggestion.
  • Ensure that progress reports are made and decisions executed. Provide follow-up to ensure the implementation of decision and checks on progress where warranted. Uncompleted actions should be listed under “Unfinished Business” on the next meeting’s agenda.