Meetings can be very productive. They can
also be a waste of time. Here are some ways to improve your
meeting management skill.
I use a "PAT" approach to meetings. A meeting has to have: a
Purpose, an Agenda, and a Timeframe or I don't
You should be able to define the purpose
of the meeting in 1 or 2 sentences at most. "This meeting is to
plan the new marketing campaign" or "this meeting is to review
shipping's new policy for handling returns." That way everyone
knows why they are there, what needs to be done, and how to know
if they are successful.
Set an agenda. List the items you are
going to review/discuss/inspect. I like to assign a time limit
to each agenda item (see below) and identify the person
responsible to speak or moderate the discussion.
Set a timeframe.
At the very least set a start and end time. I
also recommend setting a duration for each item in the agenda.
These should total to the overall meeting timeframe.
Meetings need to start on time. Don't wait for stragglers to
show up. When someone arrives late, don't go back and review
what has already been covered. That just wastes the time of the
people who showed up on time for the meeting.
If the meeting organizer/sponsor doesn't show
up on time, consider the meeting cancelled and go back to work.
How long to wait for the organizer to show up varies among
companies, but I wouldn't wait any longer than 5 minutes.
Keep and send minutes
Someone, other than the meeting organizer, should keep minutes
of the meeting. How detailed these are depends on the nature of
what is being discussed and the skill of the available note
taker. If you set an agenda in the first place, as you should
have, the note taker can use that as an outline. The minutes
should record who attended, what was discussed, any agreements
that were reached, and any action items that were assigned.
Soon after the
meeting, usually within 24 hours, the minutes of the meeting
should be distributed to all who attended, any invitees who did
not attend, and anyone else effected by the discussion. Email is
a great vehicle for distributing them. Distributing the minutes
informs those not at the meeting of the progress that was made
and reminds everyone of their action items.
Every meeting should have a "topic keeper". I like to ask for a
volunteer at the beginning of the meeting. The topic keeper's
job is to interrupt whenever the discussion strays from the
topic under discussion. These new topics can either be tabled
until later or scheduled for their own meeting. There is a fine
line between what are amplifying remarks about the topic under
discussion and what is a tangential topic. The meeting organizer
can decide. It never hurts to say "let's take that up off-line".