Tips for being an effective meeting manager

Workplace success: Tips for being an effective meeting manager

Dave Townsend

President

Thursday, February 18, 2016

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Is there any single concept more maligned in the business world than meetings? If you are at all like me, you let out a little groan at the mere mention of the term. But, in today’s world, business seems to equal meetings – some would even say we have so many that we can’t actually get any work done during normal business hours.

Is this the result of the concept of a meeting in general, or rather the fact that most have no purpose, have little structure and/or are run poorly? Is it the meetings’ fault we loathe them, or is it the people who are in charge that are the real cause of the problem? Maybe there are no bad meetings, only bad meeting callers/owners.

To be clear, this is not an anti-meeting missive. Instead, I hope to share some thoughts around why meetings generally suck and what we can do to make them work for our greater good. Meetings can have very positive traits:

  • They are key to collaboration.
  • They are an efficient, if not always necessary, way to share information.
  • They bring people together allowing us to forge relationships and create familiarity.

But at the end of the day, a meeting is simply a tool to accomplish a broader goal. A meeting should never be the goal in and of itself. They should have purpose, structure, focus and result in actions. Real work should be done. If this is not happening, the meeting is not serving a purpose and probably shouldn’t take place.

So what can we do to ensure we don’t have too many meetings and that the ones we do have are very, very productive? See the tips below.

1. Meeting or no meeting?

The first thing we can do is stop to think about whether or not we should have a meeting in the first place. If the purpose is just about sharing information, is there a better, more efficient manner to do that? What actions will result from this meeting? What work will get completed/started? What is the purpose?

2. Be selective about attendance.

Next, we need to be strategic about who we invite. Does everyone need to be there all the time? A too small meeting, with not the right people, is just as bad as a too big meeting with non-essential people. So who are the right attendees to accomplish the purpose?

3. Active management is a must.

Finally, if you call the meeting, you must manage it, actively. A meeting is no place to be passive. Below are a few tips on meeting management that can help you be successful.

  • Start on time, end on time – but don’t feel like you have to fill all the time. Shorter is always better.
  • Be brief, be bright, be gone.
  • Establish a purpose/objective and state it up front, so everyone knows what we are working toward.
  • Have an agenda and stick with it – manage the people and time to accomplish it. Do your prep work to know what you need out of the meeting.
  • Lead the meeting, don’t dominate it – but make sure the discussion accomplishes your goals and has a rhythm. Keep things moving towards accomplishing the purpose/goals.
  • Make sure everyone knows the takeaways/action items. Re-state them at end to ensure clarity and alignment.

Meetings are an essential part of the business culture. Like any tool, they can be helpful or useless depending upon how you use them. What tips do you suggest for hosting better meetings? Learn more from some of the best meeting makers like Apple and Google.

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