10 commandments for productive meetings
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Meetings, often justifiably, get a bad reputation for being a waste of time. That doesn't have to be the case.
In fact, a meeting can be a productive and effective tool for accomplishing many endeavors. That's not going to happen by accident, though. It requires planning and follow-up.
To help your team have more effective meetings, here are my 10 commandments for productive meetings:
1. You shall not meet unless you know why
Whether it's a weekly staff meeting or a planning team to launch a new service, develop an agenda beforehand. This should include the overall purpose of the meeting, what topics you'll cover, what decisions need to be made or recommendations developed, and how long you'll meet.
2. You shall determine whom you need in the discussion
Carefully consider who needs to attend based on the agenda. Who has the knowledge and expertise required to make progress on an item? Who has the decision-making authority? Get the right people involved, but don't let the meeting get too large. It's challenging to facilitate a meeting with more than 10-15 people, so try to keep the attendees list as short as possible.
3. You shall not schedule a meeting without including the agenda
Attendees need to know what the meeting is about so they're prepared. Not everyone will actually prepare for the meeting, but it's worth providing the information for those who will.
4. You shall start on time
Even if someone's running late, go ahead and get started. Be respectful of those who arrived on time and set a precedence of being prompt.
5. You shall avoid "bunny trails"
It's easy to get off-topic. As the meeting facilitator, you're responsible for getting the group back on-track. Write down new topics that come up so important items aren't overlooked, but get back to the agenda as quickly as possible.
6. You shall assign action items so work gets done
Every meeting should result in action, not just discussion. As to-dos are raised, document the task, who's responsible for completing it, and the due date.
7. You shall take notes to capture key points in the conversation
Whoever is taking notes should summarize important points and document action items.
8. You shall not go over the allotted time
In fact, it's best if you can end the meeting five minutes early. This helps attendees get to their next meeting on time and shows you respect their schedules.
9. You shall send out meeting notes within one business day
In a fast-paced environment, we're apt to forget what we met about this morning (much less a few days ago). Send out the meeting notes and action items to attendees so they can start following up as needed.
10. You shall not let people forget about their assigned action items
There's always plenty of work to do, so if you don't follow up and hold people accountable to completing their tasks, they may forget (or procrastinate). Send a reminder email a couple of days before a task is due. Also, start the next meeting with a review of the prior meeting's action items. When we know someone will ask us in front of others whether a task is complete, we're more likely to get that work finished on time.
Meetings can, and should, be productive sessions that lead to greater teamwork. You may not be able to follow these 10 commandments all the time, but you'll have better meetings when you do.
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