To perform effectively you are often required to be involved in meetings. Love them or hate them, they are an essential way of working for many people.
If meetings are run well, they can be an extremely effective way of exchanging information, reaching informed decisions and assigning/progressing specific actions to achieve a desired outcome.
If meetings are run badly, they can be a total turn off for the people involved, a serious waste of people's time, a drain on an organisation's resources and a significant contributor to under achievement and low morale.
Here are my 5 top tips on how to have effective meetings
1. The meeting should have a clearly defined purpose
Record the purpose of the meeting in one or two sentences. Also, have the meeting purpose statement to hand to help the attendees stay focused and committed to the meeting’s objective. I often put the meeting purpose as the first branch in my meeting management map. If there are specific sub-purposes for a meeting then I add these as appropriate.
The meeting’s agenda should clearly reflect the purpose of the meeting. Set a duration for significant agenda items to ensure there is adequate time for discussion and decision making but also to curb procrastination and waffle.
2. The right people are present, prepared and contribute
It’s difficult to reach a decision if the decision makers are not present. So make sure that the people that need to contribute at the meeting are invited and available. It can be better to postpone the meeting rather than holding a meeting without an essential attendee being available.
A meeting is not the place for people to do their pre-meeting work. This is a complete waste of the other attendees’ time. Attendees should arrive at the meeting prepared. Provide the attendees with a MindGenius map of the agenda in which the pre-work for each agenda item is included.
Ensure all meeting attendees contribute. Don’t let specific individuals unnecessarily dominate a discussion. Ask those not participating what their thoughts are on the matter. They might have something of value to bring to the discussion.
3. Outcomes are recorded and agreed as the meeting progresses.
Don’t rely on people’s memories. Record what happens as it happens. Don’t let valuable ideas, actions and points disappear into the ether. As the meeting progresses and discussions take place, record the key points of the discussion. Record actions that have been completed. If decisions are made and new actions are assigned, record them as they happen. This is easy to do with MindGenius and provides all of the attendees with a clear overview of what has happened.
4. The meeting is properly closed
Ensure that enough time has been set aside in the agenda to properly close the meeting and gain consensus on what needs to be done next.
Walk the attendees through the MindGenius map of what happened during the meeting and get agreement that the map is an accurate reflection of what took place and the actions assigned. Incorporate any additional points or actions arising. This map now constitutes the minutes of the meeting.
Before ending the meeting agree what the agenda should be for the next meeting based on the outcomes of the current meeting and the next set of activities required to reach the meeting’s intended goal.
The map now becomes a live working document and reference point to track developments over the course of a project. We do this internally at MindGenius, and it is especially helpful on larger projects and allows us to keep on track of where we are and where we need to be.
The attendees will leave the meeting in agreement with the meeting minutes, know what actions they need to perform and what the agenda is for the next meeting.
5. Think of ways to improve your meeting process
It’s easy to become stuck in a rut with the way meetings are managed in an organisation. Think of ways to improve your meetings. Does the meeting need to be held face to face? Could it be a virtual meeting, which can save organisations time and money? There are many online meeting options’ now including Webex, GoToMeeting and Netviewer and MindGenius is regularly used in these environments in exactly the same way as it is in “live” meetings, as a mechanism to bring focus and control and keep the meeting on track. Alternatively, could new facilitation techniques be applied? Just a slightly different approach could bring a freshness to your meetings and help you to get more out of them.
I would also suggest that you revisit these tips on a regular basis. It’s surprising how quickly you can revert to bad meeting management practices. It was worthwhile me just writing about them. I have a few things to work on.
So good luck with your meetings and I hope that they prove to be an effective way of working for you. As ever, if you have any queries then Ask Gordon. If you have any tips you wish to share on how to have effective meetings, we would love to hear from you.