Effective Meeting Management

Effective Meeting Management

Meetings have become the scourge of many companies with a meeting culture preventing many managers from being productive as well as adding to an increasing workload.  According to a survey by Management Today managers tend to spend between 35 – 50% of their working week in meetings.  Depending on the salaries of those attending, some estimates suggest that meetings can cost companies up to £500,000 per year.

However, meetings can be very productive if a few questions are asked in advance and organisers and attendees adhere to a few basic guidelines:

  1. Before organising or attending a meeting ask: Is a meeting really the best form of communication or will an email or conference call suffice?  Meetings should not involve hearing how the previous week went and what the issues are for the following week – these can be dealt with by emails and project plans.
  2. Ask: Do you really need to attend or can you send a team member who will benefit from the experience as part of his/her development?
  3. Check that the meeting has a pre-defined objective which should explain why everyone is present, what needs to be achieved and how success will be measured, for example, solving a problem, improving a process, developing an ongoing plan, agreeing a key decision, developing a strategy.
  4. Ensure that there is an agenda with relevant documents circulated at least 48 hours in advance so participants can prepare and be ready to give their point of view.
  5. Meetings tend to be booked in to a manager’s Outlook diary with no time  for them to prepare or get from one room to another, which leads to late starts and increased stress levels.  Block off time in your diary to prepare for meetings and carry out any follow up actions.  Arrange meetings from quarter to or past the hour to enable attendees to be on time.
  6. Set timings for each agenda item and finish on time.  Don’t wait for any latecomers so they will know to be on time in future.
  7. Assign a note taker when invitations are sent out and ensure they are able to circulate the minutes with action points for each Directly Responsible Individual (as advocated by Apple) within 24 hours of the meeting.
  8. Rotate the chairperson to keep meetings fresh and allow attendees to develop their meeting management skills.  Make sure that everyone is prepared to be challenged on their opinions and is ready to engage in open and honest debate.
  9. Any discussions regarding specific issues between two parties should be taken offline.
  10. Assign roles, such as a time keeper and someone to keep the meeting focused on topic to avoid tangential discussions.
  11. Ensure there are no more than ten participants, that everyone contributes and unproductive debate is closed down.
  12. Interruptions should be kept to a minimum with phones off or on vibrate and laptops left in the office.
  13. Don’t include AOB to prevent important discussions being left to the end.
  14.  Summarise all the key points and agree actions.  Ask: did the meeting achieve its objectives and is everyone clear on the outcomes?
  15. Obtain feedback about what worked well and what could be improved and implement any improvements next time.
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