One of the most frustrating things is sitting in a poorly run meeting. It seems obvious of what makes a good meeting however I have sat through more poorly executed meetings, than good meetings. In the effort to make sure we use time as efficient as possible I came up with this blueprint that works well for meetings on my team.
- Have an agenda. Even if you are just facilitating a discussion and you have only one or two items—make sure everyone in attendance understands why they are there and what is expected of them. For example, you agenda may be:
- Go over goals
- Discuss and debate
- Assign and go over action items
Simple, no? Sometimes having a basic framework is helpful to get people in the right frame of mind. In addition this will make you look organized to show that you put some thought in ahead of time.
- Set goals for the meeting. With any gathering there should be clearly defined outcomes that hope to come out of the meeting. These should be written somewhere prior to the start of the meeting—they can be written in an email, handout, or even on a white board—but make sure everyone clearly understands why are they present and what you are setting out to accomplish.
- Take care of the background material. Is there stuff people should know before they come into the meeting? Maybe an email thread, diagram, document, or website—make sure this is included in the invite, and sent out in an email beforehand. For example, if you want to review a website, tell everyone—please look at www.katemats.com and read the content on the homepage. The more specific you are about what you want people to do the more likely they will actually do it. If you have a document or email, print it out and bring enough copies for everyone (including yourself). This way people will be able to reference the print out throughout the meeting as needed.
- Ask someone to take notes. If you are in charge of running the meeting, don’t be the one taking notes. You will be too busy writing things down to ensure the conversation stays on track. Try to ask someone before you get into the meeting so that person comes prepared with their notebook, laptop, or other preferred note taking device.
- Stick to your agenda and keep tangents to a minimum. If there is a tangent that doesn’t work towards your goals, be quick to keep the meeting on track. My favorite phrase for this is “This is a great discussion, however since we are here for [state purpose here] lets make a note of this issue/question/discussion and follow up after the meeting.” This way people know they have been heard, and that it is not the end. That way you can consistently steer the ship in the desired direction.
- Track key conclusions and action items and go over them before the meeting is over. As the meeting takes place it is important to make sure your note taker keeps track of any key points/conclusions and follow up action items. At the end have him/her read through those things and make sure the list is comprehensive. This gives people the opportunity to chime in should something get missed.
- Send out meeting notes. Get a copy of the notes from the note taker, or have him/her send them out to the people that were in attendance. If any of the goals weren’t met make sure you indicate to the group, and determine what if any follow up meetings need to take place. Schedule any subsequent meetings shortly after sending out the notes so people know what is going on and that their time was well spent.