In some office cultures, calling a meeting has become the default action when there is need for any type of discussion. Before you invite your colleagues to a meeting, you should take a little time to think about what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself if a meeting is the best way to get the result you desire. If you decide to go ahead and call the meeting, take a few more minutes to plan it out. A meeting is more than just some people in a room, talking.
When you take the time to be strategic about meetings they can be very effective. Whether your office is meeting-weary or meeting-ready, your colleagues your superiors will appreciate your efforts.
1. What is my goal for the meeting?
Do you want to have the group reach a consensus, form a plan, feel informed on a project or do you just want to get some feedback? It is important to have a desired outcome for a meeting because this will decide who you invite and how you structure the agenda.
2. What kind of meeting do I want to have?
The word meeting is an all-purpose term for gatherings of various types. At times a meeting is really a brainstorming session; at other times it is an evaluation. Since you are calling the meeting, it is up to you to set the tone. If you decide what kind of meeting you want to have beforehand, you can set the course at the beginning and keep everyone on track.
3. Do we really need a meeting?
One you've thought about the purpose of the meeting, you need to decide if you really need to have one. Are you simply going to impart information that could be put into an e-mail, or do you need to interact with other members of your team?
4. What happened the last time this group met?
Sometimes organizations find that they are in a meeting rut. If you leave a meeting with this group questioning if it is worth the time and effort, you probably want to do something different. Think about the last meeting on this topic or project. What distracted participants? What got everyone excited? Make an effort to avoid the former and emphasize the latter.
5. Is there anyone I need to see separately before the meeting?
A meeting is not the time to air personal grievances or call anyone out. It is also not the setting to convince someone to see things your way. Don't be afraid to chat with a co-worker before the meeting to pave the way for a smoother gathering with the group.
6. When is the optimal time for the meeting?
You know your office culture and scheduling patterns. If a certain time of day is jam-packed, don't add to the meeting traffic. It is not always easy to get a time when everyone is refreshed, but do your best because the time of day can really effect how a meeting proceeds.
7. When should I give out the agenda?
If you expect attendees to engage in some level of preparation before the meeting, you should e-mail them an agenda beforehand. However, there are circumstances in which receiving an agenda in advance could be distracting or throw some people into a panic, in those cases, wait.
If you do hand out the agenda at the meeting, do your best to keep momentum going.
It is typical to hand out an agenda and then start talking. Sadly, people are often too busy reading the agenda to pay attention. There is nothing wrong with making introductory remarks first. Then you can hand out the agenda and give everyone a few minutes to look it over.
8. Would this meeting go better with food?
If the topic for discussion will not be hindered by food or if you think food will help break the ice, by all means, include it in your meeting. Just be sure to allot enough time for eating and discussion. Meeting food doesn't always have to be a full meal either-people appreciate snacks, too.
9. Where is the best place to hold this meeting?
You've heard that old adage: location, location, location. A room that is too small on the other side of the building will inconvenience attendees. A room that is too large may have an echo and be uncomfortable in a different way. Look for the room that is just right-one that can accommodate everyone comfortably, one that has the equipment you need, and one that has minimal distractions.
10. Am I prepared to lead and to listen?
There is nothing worse than being called to a meeting where the person in charge is not ready to discuss the topic at hand. But at the same time, if you call a meeting, you have to be open to getting input from others. So don't prepare to give a lecture, rather arm yourself with information and prepare to facilitate.
In our busy world of work, there is a temptation to call a meeting and let things take their course. Speedy meeting setup does save time initially, but when a project or initiative suffers because of poor planning, no one looks good. The time and effort it takes to plan an organized, productive meeting is well worth it.
Amy Linley gives practical and usable advice regarding communication and meetings at AccuConference.
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