We all have been part of a meeting at some point or the other (I’m guessing). We all have been part of very effective meetings (still guessing). Some have been at the receiving end of boring, stretched and ineffective meeting (Not guessing anymore). If all your meetings have been very effective and well run, you are one of the very lucky/selected few. But if you have had or been part of mostly badly run, ineffective and “time-wasting” meetings, I can guaranty you are not alone.
In some organisations, their second hobby is holding meetings. They hold meeting to plan meetings. They schedule meeting to discuss agenda of another future meeting. Except if you are getting paid for attending and sitting at meetings, just holding meeting for the sake of it is unproductive and barbaric.
After studying several results of meetings, I arrived at two conclusions. Either lack of knowledge of effective meeting management, or sheer wickedness. But I will safely assume the former, and as a result, have developed a three-pronged process for effective meeting management
In another post, I will attempt to highlight few tips for effective meeting management. But first, let me discuss the three processes for effective meeting management.
STEP 1: PLAN THE MEETING
1. Define your Objective: No one sets out to run a meeting without an objective. But if the overarching objective does not include the 3Ds (Discussion, Decision and Deliberation), by all means just send an email. If your objective is to pass a piece of information, you can do that successfully without calling a meeting. The PUSH or PULL form of communication will effectively accomplish this objective. In a nutshell, the first BIG step towards effective meeting management is to define the objective. What do you want to achieve at the end of this meeting. Is meeting the best way to achieve this objective?
2. Identify the Participants: So, you are convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the most appropriate approach to achieve your objective is to call a meeting. , the next thing is to determine stakeholders whose absence will make the meeting ineffective or create a GAP. Nothing kills faster than being in a gathering where you have absolutely no need being in. Determine the people/stakeholders that need to attend the meeting. Which stakeholders will be interested, impacted or affected by the discussion, decisions and deliberations of the meeting.
3. Develop an Agenda: For every meeting, there must be an agenda. An agenda is like a compass that provides direction on the discussions at the meeting. It’s a list of topics and issues to be discussed at the meeting. The easiest and fastest way for a meeting to derail is not to have an agenda. Develop the agenda for the meeting well before hand, and make the agenda as specific, action-oriented and unambiguous as possible. Then circulate the agenda to the identified participants before the meeting date. This is to give the participants an understanding of their expectations at the meeting and also to enable them prepare for the meeting.
4. Choose the Venue: The ambience, the location and the environment, as insignificant as they appear, play a huge part in meeting effectiveness. The SCRUM practitioners know the importance of this during scrum meetings. Make sure you choose a venue that will bring out the best in the meeting.
5. Schedule your Meeting : aggregate the objective, the attendees, the agenda and the location and schedule your meeting
STEP 2: CONDUCT THE MEETING
So, the meeting day is here. Few things you need to put in place:
1. Introduction: If the meeting involves few people from different parties, run through introduction and keep this as simple as possible. Name, company and role will be fine. Otherwise, you can just proceed to share the objectives of the meeting
2. Appoint a Facilitator: You do not necessarily have to facilitate the meeting. There are gifted, talented and trained meeting facilitators. Choose someone to facilitate the meeting
3. Appoint a Scribe: This is often missed in meetings. There should be someone whose responsibility it is to capture, in writing, every important thing discussed at the meeting.
4. Ground Rules: At the beginning of the meeting, share the objectives again, have everyone introduce themselves if needed, and run them through ground rules. Ground rules are set of acceptable behaviours in a setting. I have another article on Ground Rules for Effective meeting Management
5.Light refreshment: Okay, this is very tricky. But once you plan to spend more than 30 minutes, kindly ensure you make provision for light refreshment such as tea/coffee, water, sweet/chewing gum/chocolate and biscuit to go with it.
6. Stay in Control: Do not let anyone hijack or dominate the meeting. Do not let anyone play invisible during the meeting. Make sure everybody contributes and ensure nobody brings up things outside of scope of the meeting. Other discussions can wait. Also, if possible, stay within schedule. If a meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes, try not to exceed 30 or at worst 40 minutes. This is VERY important
7. Action Points: Identify action points from the meeting, assign responsibilities and due dates to the action points.
8. Review: At the end of the meeting, ensure the scribe runs the attendees through discussions, decisions and most importantly action points
STEP 3: FOLLOW UP
1. After every meeting, send a thank you message to all the attendees
2. Develop minutes of the meeting and share with all the invited. This is a very critical part of the follow up. If possible, share the minute of the meeting within 24 hours after the meeting and request acknowledgement. I have a template developed for minutes of meeting. I am happy to share a copy with you. Just leave me a mail or inbox message. I am working on an online repository where we can share materials and resources freely.