How To Run A More Effective Meeting

Follow these THREE TIPS for INCREASED EFFICIENCY at your next meeting … 

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We’ve all been stuck in a bad meeting. You arrive on time only to have the meeting start ten minutes late. The agenda? Unclear. The person in charge? Also. Some people start to offer ideas, others shoot them down. Nothing is really decided and the meeting wraps up, as you silently lament the lost hour. There is a better way.

1. SET THE AGENDA. It may seem like an obvious requirement, but a lot of meetings start with no clear sense of purpose. The meeting’s agenda can be summarised on a handout, written on a whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset, but everyone should know why they’ve gathered and what they’re supposed to be accomplishing. The agenda provides a compass for the conversation, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion wanders off course. “If I don’t have an agenda in front of me, I walk out,” said Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network. “It’s very important to me to focus people and to keep them focused.”

2. START ON TIME. END ON TIME. Nothing can drain the energy from a room quite like waiting for the person in charge to show up. Why do so many in positions of power fall into the bad habit of being late for meetings? Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s? Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the boss may arrive is a waste of a precious resource. Terry Lundgren, the chairman of Macy’s, never hesitated to enforce a strict policy of on-time meetings. “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because the meeting’s going to start at 8,” he said. “Busy people that can’t get off the last phone call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.” Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly.

3. END WITH AN ACTION PLAN. Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught. A well-known CEO of a firm that helps companies meet compliance standards, likes to end her meetings by asking, ‘Who’s got the ball?’. “When you’re playing sport, and the ball is thrown to you, then you’ve got the ball, and you’re in control of what happens next,” she said. “You own it. It becomes a very visible concept for making sure that there’s actually ownership to make sure things get done.” In another finance company, a phrase to end meetings that has become a common acronym in office e-mails: WWDWBW, which stands for “Who will do what by when?”. Try it, it’s easy to track people who deliver, and those who don’t.

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