Meetings – the one word that can inspire ‘ugh’ more than anything else in the professional world. But they don’t all have to be that way. The best meetings I’ve ever attended were well thought out and prepared. There are organizations that tend to have a culture of having meetings for the sake of meetings (and the more attendees the better!). Let’s not forget the core purpose of meetings – to efficiently and effectively exchange information between stakeholders. When forgetting this core purpose, organizations can change individuals’ perspective and outlook (no pun intended) on meetings.
In this article I’ll talk about the top 3 things that meeting facilitators can do in order to have an effective meeting.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!
Every meeting needs to have a core purpose. Some organizations go so far as to make the organizer state the purpose of the meeting in the invitation (which is not a bad practice). Stating the meeting’s core purpose does two things: 1) it tells the attendees why they are coming to the meeting and; 2) it helps set individual mindsets to understand how they need to prepare for the meeting.
Another key component to preparing the meeting is preparing a solid agenda. Agendas don’t necessarily need to be verbose or incredibly detailed but an agenda should relay to readers the topics for discussion and the time allotted for each item.
Picking the Right Attendees
Picking the right attendees is an undervalued component to effective meeting planning. There is absolutely a ‘sweet spot’ of number of attendees that provides the meeting with the appropriate knowledge in the room versus having too many voices in the conversation. My rule of thumb when evaluating attendees for a meeting are as follows:
Does the person have anything to contribute to the meeting? (i.e. ‘giver’)
Does the person need to learn anything from the meeting? (i.e. ‘taker’)
If individuals do not fit either of these criteria, there is a strong case for not including them in the meeting. Sometimes meeting organizers may want to bring in higher-level executives ‘just so they can hear’ what’s being discussed. This is systemic of a larger, more cultural problem where meetings change from an exchange of ideas and information to a ‘digging in’ between groups or individuals.
As a meeting facilitator, it’s your job to see that the objectives of the meeting are met. This is done through strong facilitation and disciplined execution of the agenda. Key aspects to disciplined facilitation include strong timekeeping of your agenda items, minimizing side conversations (use of a ‘parking lot’) and ensuring that all voices are heard and ideas are properly exchanged and understood by all attendees.
Meetings can be a very powerful organizational tool when managed properly. When poorly planned or executed it can create a negative impact on productivity and culture. Proper meeting delivery is key to establishing a perception of value within your organization.
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