Business
Meetings : The professional alternative to doing work

by Ralph Goldsmith
Are meetings a professional alternative to doing work? Meetings can be a way to move forward or a tool to avoid making a decision. You can make it what you want. Then, why not have a productive, enjoyable and worthwhile experience!
Meetings: The professional alternative to doing work OR Avoid making a decision, have a meeting instead

I admit it. I have a love / hate relationship with meetings. Most of the time I love hating them, but sometimes, on the rare occasion, I go to a meeting that I love and I love it because it is worthwhile and productive. I don't feel like I have wasted my time.

There are some tools that can be used to make meetings more productive, more enjoyable for all concerned, and just generally more worthwhile.

Interested?

OK, lets start with why the meeting is taking place.

Purpose and Outcome

Define a very clear purpose for the meeting and be absolutely clear what you expect to come out of the meeting. Ideally have an outcome that people can see (touch, hear). Make that purpose the whole reason for the meeting. Print it out and stick it on the wall of the meeting room, write it up on a flipchart or put it on a piece of paper in front of every participant. Refer back to it during the meeting, make sure that everything that goes on in the meeting is leading towards achieving that purpose and output. If it's not then it has no part in THIS meeting. So what if someone comes up with a really great idea but it doesn't fit with the purpose of this meeting? Capture it. Write it on a flip chart or whatever else you need to do and then set up a separate discussion to look at it.

Structure and Agenda

Make sure that you have an agenda for the meeting and that you stick to it. Allow specific amounts of time for each agenda topic and work within those time frames. That normally means asking people to do some prep work up front so that they can bring structured input to the meeting. Three other points on the agenda: Don't make the meeting longer than in needs to be. Don't have AOB. If it's relevant to the purpose of the meeting then it should be on the agenda. Ask for input to the agenda before the meeting. If it's not relevant to the purpose of the meeting then arrange for it to be discussed separately. Don't 'pack' the agenda. Allow a little bit of slack for people turning up a couple of minutes late, or overrunning slightly on one of the items.

Attendees

Make sure that you have the right people in the meeting and that they are adequately prepared. With a few exceptions (meetings that are just to communicate information or news, team update meetings etc.) there are only 3 reasons for someone to be in the meeting 1. They are a decision maker 2. They have knowledge that the decision makers need 3. They have some kind of administrative role in the meeting (such as minute taker) Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them in the meeting so that they can prepare. If they need to present, how long do they have? For the decision makers, what will you be asking of them? What do they need to do in advance to make a decision during the meeting? Roles What roles do you need people to play in the meeting? Some typical roles to consider are: Chair Minute Taker Timekeeper There is no reason why each of these roles has to be a separate person but think carefully about conflicts. Generally Chair and Minute taker should be separateMeeting Etiquette

How often do you see someone at a meeting typing away on a laptop? Are they capturing valuable information about the meeting or taking the opportunity to catch up on some e mails? What do you want to be the rule around mobile phones, Blackberry's and other potential distractions? Make the rules clear. How often do you attend meetings where one person talks over another? Or where small 'side' meetings kick off between small numbers of the participants? Maybe that's OK for what you are trying to achieve, or maybe not. Again set the rules up front and make sure people stick to them.

Closing the meeting down

At the end of the meeting check back to the purpose and outcome. Have you achieved it? If not what are you going to do as the next steps? Are all of the agreements and actions from the meeting documented (minutes taken)? Is everybody clear on them? Ideally put them up so that everyone can see them, if not have someone read through them so that, if anyone has any objections to what has been documented then they can raise them at the meeting. Don't forget to allow some time in the agenda for this.

OK, that's it. Some very simple rules for making meetings more productive. It's over to you now. Give it a go and see if you can make your meetings more productive.
Ralph Goldsmith ralph@newwavelength.co.uk www.newwavelength.co.uk
Ralph Goldsmith is a New Insights certified life coach of high distinction. New Wavelength Coaching works with individuals and business supporting change, empowering growth, increasing profits, building confidence and more.