7 Secrets for Good Meetings

by Sharlyn Lauby on September 9, 2010

One of the biggest changes I experienced when I became a consultant involved meetings.  Working in corporate, I attended a lot of meetings – many of them were routine like staff meetings or safety meetings, etc.

As a consultant, the number of meetings I attend has diminished significantly.  And maybe it’s just me but, the meetings I do go to for clients are much more efficient.  I wonder if having someone from outside the organization impacts meeting efficiency.  Hmmm, probably reading way too much into that one.

The real key to a successful meeting is planning.  If you really take the time to plan and prepare, it has a definite impact on the outcome of the meeting.  Here are my 7 planning tips that help me conduct a good meeting:

Only have meetings when necessary.  I know this sounds like a no brainer.  But, there are lots of people who call meetings for everything.  Don’t call a meeting when a phone call will do.  Or say you need to have a meeting to avoid dealing with an issue.  If you want productive meetings, only have them when necessary.

Invite the right people.  Yes, this sometimes means inviting those devil’s advocates and naysayers.  Make sure the people who need to be in the room are there.  And don’t add to the confusion by inviting people who don’t need to be there.  Meetings aren’t popularity contests.

Pick the proper date/time/location.  When I worked in hotels, no one scheduled meetings at 3:00 p.m.  Why?  That’s the typical check-in time.  The lesson?  Understand the right time to have meetings.

Also, choose the right venue.  Think Jerry Maguire folks.  Some conversations are fine at restaurants but some aren’t.  I once sat on a board that wanted to hold meetings at a restaurant.  The meetings were worthless from a ‘get things done’ standpoint because everyone was focused on eating and chatting.  Who wants to second a motion when they have a mouthful of disco fries?!

Create an agenda.  Tell people why you want to have a meeting.  It gives participants time to prepare, do research, and think about their viewpoint on the issues being discussed.  The only way you can get something accomplished is by having people come prepared. Oh, and please be sure to actually stick to the agenda.

If you expect others to talk or present, tell them.  In advance.  When you put out that agenda, let the participants know if you expect something from them.  If you want a person to bring the latest data, let them know.  If you want people to come prepared to make a decision, tell them.  I recall a meeting where a board president asked me to present a proposal during a meeting – it completely threw me off guard because I had no forewarning whatsoever.

Keep minutes.  Creating a record of what action was taken and what needs to be done is important.  I’m a big fan of using SMART goals in creating minutes.  It not only provides a record of what will be done but who is responsible for it and when it will be completed.  Then, the SMART plan becomes a working document.

Follow up after the meeting.  Minutes should be sent in a timely fashion so people can start working on action items.  Let participants know you’re available if they need help, resources or just a sounding board.

Sometimes the phrase “let’s meet about this” sounds so casual that it might send the message that meetings are easy.  Truth be told, meetings are hard work.  At least when they’re done right.

Image courtesy of Jackhsiao

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