A few meeting ideas

by Krishna on March 29, 2006

Even if you have nothing to do, you will always have meetings. There will be meetings with your bosses, other departments, customers and your subordinates. Apart from the obvious items like agenda and action items, what can you do to make a meeting productive? Here are a few tips:

  1. Arrange meetings at times when people are not pressed for time or are distracted. Early mornings are not good because generally people are getting their day started with phone calls and emails. Close to lunch means someone will be hungry. Evenings means someone wants to leave early. The best times in my opinion are to start between 9:30 am and 11:00 am, or between 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm. Don’t try to start right after lunch with a customer, because that may mean you missing your lunch because of travel time!
  2. Indulge in some small talk to keep things friendly, but get to the point very quickly. Try to end the meeting before the scheduled time. Talk less. Listen and ask questions. Have paperwork prepared beforehand. The more you prepare before the meeting, the less time you will consume during the meeting trying to sort things out. Place multiple clocks in your conference room so that everyone knows what the time is and avoid dragging the meeting on.
  3. Instead of taking notes by hand, bring a laptop and projector with you. Show your notes to everyone as you type them so that they can confirm the decisions that are being made. If you are doing a conference call, share your desktop using a tool such as Raindance. One obvious point is that when the meeting is done, you don’t have to type up your minutes. If there are no action items for you, the meeting is really done.
  4. Limit the meeting to only those participants necessary for the meeting. Do bring decision makers into a meeting — that results in a practical session instead of a brainstorming exercise. Don’t invite persons with a negative mentality to a meeting as they will act as a damper to the discussion.
  5. On items in your agenda, make tentative decisions instead of “taking it offline”. You should come to meetings expecting surprises and be prepared to spend time talking about it. Postponing decisions (unless there is no alternative) will lead to a lack of interest in the meetings, and result in less productivity in the future.
  6. Maintain a positive attitude. Be open. Avoid games of any kind. Make it easy and comfortable for people to attend the discussions. Never criticize someone in front of others in a meeting — Now THAT is something you should take offline. Invite suggestions from all.

The end goal of a meeting should be to accomplish something — Everyone should walk out of the meeting with a sense of achievement and satisfaction. And tangibly, there should be well-formed action items or decisions on the items in the agenda. If that is done, you have conducted a successful meeting.

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