Facilitating Effective Meetings

We live in a busy world with many factors vying for our precious time. When we ask a group of people to give us their time, it is crucial that we conduct the meeting effectively. Following are some tips to help you do that:

Agenda – Developing an agenda will benefit you and the team in a number of ways. First it will force you to really think about the meeting and its desired outcomes. Once you know what you wish to accomplish you can decide if a meeting is even necessary or if a couple of phone call/e-mails will accomplish the same results. Second it will cause you to organize the topics in a logical order. Third it will communicate to the attendees that you are prepared and that they can expect a well run meeting. Fourth it will allow the attendees to thoughtfully prepare how they will participate. These will all increase the likelihood that your meeting will be successful.

Attendees – Thoughtfully consider who you want to invite to the meeting and how they can contribute. Use your organization’s collaborative tools to make sure that everyone can attend and that you will have an appropriate room or location. Send each of them the agenda and let them know why you have invited them and how you think they might best contribute. Inviting people who don’t have a stake in the meeting or who have nothing to contribute wastes their time and could cause complications to arise during the meeting.

Alliances – Talk to some of the key attendees about their opinions and ideas prior to the meeting. Attempt to achieve some synergy with them and make sure that their ideas will be properly considered. Also meet with those that might be hostile to your position and discover their arguments. Even if you aren’t able to modify their position, at least you will know how to defend your position.

Action – Once the meeting has started (on time!) stick to the agenda and keep it moving forward at a brisk pace. Allow everyone to voice their state their point of view and call on those that you know can contribute on particular topics. Attempt to resolve differences but be willing to move forward with a majority if you can’t get consensus. Unless the information gap is huge, don’t send the topic back for more research (many good ideas die at this point). You have brought together the best available information and opinion at the meeting, be willing to make a decision right away.

Assignments – As a recap of the meeting, go around the room and have each participant commit to any task they have taken on and when they will have it finished. If there are items that still need to be accomplished, ask for volunteers, take them on your self or assign them to the proper person. This activity might cause some anxiety for the attendees but is necessary for the meeting to be effective.

If these suggestions are radically different from the way meetings are conducted in your organization then it is no wonder that they aren’t productive. But if you are willing to go against the tide of convention, you will accomplish more than your peers and do it in a shorter period of time.

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