There’s nothing so mind-numbing as a meeting that drags on and where nothing gets achieved. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are a few tips that will make your next meeting have some real bite.
Have an agenda. Ensure that everyone who’s invited to the meeting has a copy. Ensure people know the process to get an agenda item listed. Once the agenda is in place, stick to it.
Finish on time. If you commit to finish on time you’ll probably start on time. Either way you’ll compress the debate and discussion into the time available.
Be clear about what you want the meeting to achieve. In all likelihood that means making decisions. Either way, get clear about what a successful meeting looks like and pursue it hard. Avoid meetings that are convened to “discuss” an issue. Replace that with “make a decision about…”
Use deadlines. Let people know you intend to gag debate and call for a decision after a specified time regardless of how the debate has progressed. When the time is up, call for a decision.
Avoid General Business. Most meetings have a section toward the end called General Business. It’s often used as a place to dump rubbish. Let people know that if they have something to discuss it should be provided to the Secretary prior to the circulation of the agenda.
Ensure everyone has access to the information they need to achieve the meeting outcomes. If you intend calling for a decision to approve your annual budget everyone should have a copy along with any supporting notes that explain how the budget estimates were made. Have the right people on hand to answer any specialist questions that might arise.
Ensure AV equipment and flip charts are set up before the meeting. The last thing you want is to lose valuable time waiting for someone to connect a computer to a projector.
Expect people to have done their homework. If you’re calling for a decision let people know you expect them to have read any supporting explanatory documents. Assume they have by not recapping these documents for the benefit of the lazy.
Don’t recap for late attendees, regardless of who they are. If someone walks in late expect them to catch up. Don’t punish everyone else for their lateness by bogging the meeting down with a recap of what you’ve already covered.
At the end of each agenda item confirm with the meeting the decision made and have it recorded in the minutes. Circulate these minutes as soon as possible after the meeting so that people can get cracking on any actions that are required of them as a result of decisions made.
Don’t let people hog the limelight. Expect people to get to the point. Don’t let attendees monopolise proceedings. If you have a problem child have a word with them during a break. Let them know that their contribution is appreciated but you also want to hear what others have to say.