We all attend too many meetings, and most aren’t worth our while. So, here are a few tips for making your meetings more interesting and effective.
· Pick the time of day, the location, and the length of the meeting in advance, taking into consideration what you are trying to accomplish.
o Brief morning meetings work best for informational topics and should be in a convenient location.
o If you want to encourage team-building, trust, and interaction, have your meeting in a much more comfortable location, allowing plenty of time and offering tasty food at the meeting.
o Consider a conference call, or just an e-mail information piece instead of a live meeting.
· Agenda setting and keeping
o When you plan your agenda, get input from others who might have important issues they want the group to address.
o Pencil in the amount of time you will be giving each topic. I was recently at a meeting where the CEO spent most of the 2½ hours talking about some interesting organizations she had met – which didn’t allow any time for the most important items on the agenda – oh, and the meeting was scheduled for 2 hours.
o Make sure you prioritize the topics so that the important ones actually are given the time they require.
o End with action items.
· Minutes timely and accurate
o There are 2 schools of thought here. One suggests very terse and tight minutes so that there is no room for lawsuits later.
o I believe minutes should be detailed because everyone needs to have information and reminders. One solution – have terse official minutes and then an informational document that is newsy and unofficial.
o Make sure minutes are distributed (e-mail is wonderful) within a week of the meeting about which they were recorded. The reason for this is because people forget very easily.
o People should be invited to make additions/corrections via e-mail prior to the next meeting.
o Minutes should be distributed in hard copy (ok, I’m old-fashioned) at the next meeting for final review and approval.
· Managing the People
o Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone knew how to behave properly and cooperatively in a meeting…but, they don’t. Here are just a few of the problem types that need special handling.
o The Bully – he or she insists on monopolizing the discussion – all the time. It takes a strong meeting chair or facilitator to get this person to give others an opportunity to talk – but that’s what has to be said.
o The Off-Topic Person - I find this person in almost every meeting or retreat I facilitate. He or she has an important point that is totally irrelevant or inappropriate to the topic under discussion. My solution – make sure to capture the essential topic that s/he suggests by putting it obviously on a flip chart or white board promising to come back to it later. Make sure you do.
o The Rambler – sometimes the brightest and most creative members of the team go off on tangents or tell the same story over and over again. This person needs to be gently reminded that s/he is taking too much time and if necessary being put on a timer.
o The Silent One – often the quietest one in the room is the most dangerous. That person will later talk negatively to others “behind your back” and will cause trouble. The solution is to get them to speak up and share their opinions during the meeting itself.
o Voting with My Friend – how many times have you found someone votes just as their friend does, not wanting to hurt his/her feelings, rather than voting logically or rationally? If it’s important to get true opinions, it might be the time for a secret ballot.
o Yes Man/Ma’am – whatever the boss wants, watch his/her face for clues and vote to earn “brownie points.” The only way to handle this kiss-up is to keep a poker face and make sure you solicit everyone’s opinions before offering your own.