How much time every week do you spend in meetings? Do you feel every such meeting gives you better pay off than the equivalent time and energy spent elsewhere? While meetings can easily get unproductive and do nothing more than drain your energy, it does not have to be that way. Here are some practical tips that can drastically increase your effectiveness in dealing with meetings.
Before attending or initiating any meeting, ask yourself “What are the intended outcomes from this meeting and/or from my attendance?” Write down your answers. Addressing this question first and identifying clear answers is absolutely critical for anything else you do in connection to that event.
The second important question is “What is the best tool to reach those outcomes?” Remember that a meeting is just one of the tools of interpersonal communication. Like any tool, it serves well for certain business situations, but may be ineffective for many others. Would it be more effective to achieve any of the objectives some other way? For example, you could make a phone call, distribute a memo, or just make some decisions on your own.
It does not matter how well run is the meeting if that meeting does not need to be conducted in the first place. Similarly, before attending a meeting, check if you could obtain or share the same information or insights better and more efficiently some other way.
The next critical question for an effective meeting is “Who are the right people to be at the meeting?” Are there any people (including yourself) who are not expected to get any noticeable benefits or to give any relevant help in this particular meeting? No need to waste their time. On the other hand, could you invite an additional person with some helpful expertise, insights, or first hand facts relevant for the meeting purposes?
The next step is to prepare and distribute an agenda. The agenda should communicate briefly but clearly the purpose of the meeting, the schedule of the presentations by the participants, and the key points for discussion, all with specific time frames. It is desirable to put the more important presentations and points first.
For meetings where you are not the organizer, still pay attention to the agenda and make sure you have it in advance. Having a clear agenda that is properly communicated to everyone before the meeting serves a number of purposes, both before and during the meeting. Before the meeting, the agenda allows everyone to prepare. Even when no practical action steps are required or done, the agenda prepares everyone for more effective work during the meeting. In the meeting room, the agenda sets priorities and time frames. It is a necessary tool for keeping the meeting productive and focused.
Finally, the guidelines above are essential for practically any productive meeting. Yet, depending on the number and diversity of the attendees, the standards of your organization, and your personal standards of excellence, there are some finer details you may want to keep in mind. From choosing the right time, location, and seating, to recognizing and managing interpersonal dynamics during the meeting.
Sergey Dudiy, Ph. D. , is a personal productivity writer and web entrepreneur, founder of Time-Management-Guide.com , dedicated to building a stronger foundation for your success, one skill at a time, from basic skills of time management and goal setting to effective meetings and teamwork.
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