10 steps for organising effective meetings
So if you are calling a meeting what steps do you need to follow to ensure it is valuable and productive?
1. Think about whether you need to call a meeting, or could you just send out an email with a status update? There is a fine line to be trodden here between keeping everyone in the loop, getting feedback, moving things on, and just simply disseminating information. So do you want people’s comments, input, feedback, need to explain the results, field questions? If so, call a meeting. If it is simply a report that everything is on track, maybe send an email with that status report, saying you don’t propose to call a meeting unless anyone deems it necessary, and ask if anyone has any questions or comments.
2. Think about the purpose of the meeting .What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for a discussion, peoples input, and comments?
3. Draw up a list of attendees. Invite people affected by any changes or announcements. Or if you are discussing a problem, invite those who can contribute because they have relevant experience or information.
4. Draw up an agenda, listing the points you want to cover in order, and with a timeline attached. Email it out in advance .Sometimes it is appropriate to ask if anyone wants to add anything to the agenda. This depends on a number of factors – type of meeting, reason for meeting, company culture, and hierarchy to name a few. Once the agenda is set and agreed, display it at the meeting, and stick to it to keep everyone focused.
5. Make sure the room is prepared with heating or cooling checked, AV display set up, paper and pens, refreshments, agenda displayed.
6. Start on time, and aim to end on time, by sticking to your pre – planned agenda. If an idea of value comes up that is not strictly relevant to the progression of this meeting, put it aside for now and continue with the agenda, returning to the idea at the end to decide when and how to address it.
7. Nominate someone to take minutes for you, and in particular to note action points and who is designated to deal with them. If you have a secretary or assistant it would be appropriate for them to do this. Otherwise ask a willing colleague to help. It is virtually impossible to chair a meeting effectively and write good minutes. It has been said that whoever takes the minutes controls the follow up, so choose wisely and get involved in writing the minutes, or better still write them yourself using your assistant or colleagues’ notes to help you.
8. Control the meeting. Don’t allow anyone to ramble or repeat ideas that are not being taken up by the group. And don’t let anyone monopolise the discussion. Thank them for their contribution, and ask for contributions from others. As we said earlier, you want to develop a reputation as an effective meeting manager whose meetings start on time, move along quickly, interruptions, irrelevancies, phones and tablets are not tolerated, the meeting ends promptly with action points allocated, conclusions drawn, meeting minutes circulated. You respect your colleagues’ time and expect them to respect yours.
9. In your position as chair of the meeting you should be clear about the outcomes for each topic on the agenda and set aside enough time to reach outcomes without people feeling unduly rushed. Let participants know what kind of input you are requesting for each agenda point. Call on people you want to speak, invite them to comment, to get the participation levels and input you need. You should also try to ensure there is clarity, that everyone has the same understanding of what is being said .You can do this by summarising a participant’s input if you feel it needs explanation or clarification. Encourage everyone to be open and honest in their comments. Allow time for discussion to be complete before moving on to the next topic. Get everyone’s agreement and commitment on who will take actions, and in what time frame.
10. Follow up with minutes circulated within a day or two at most. Its best to write them while events are fresh in your mind, and it is also important to ensure everyone left the meeting with the same understanding of matters. It is quite usual for people to interpret matters differently , and it helps to restate what was accomplished, action points allocated, tasks delegated with associated timeframes or deadlines.
Following these steps will build your reputation as an effective meeting manager.