Monday Mornings with Madison

PART 1: MEETING BEST PRACTICES

PREPARING FOR THE MEETING

Most business people spend a substantial part of their day in meetings.  Meetings with clients.  Meeting with coworkers.  Meetings with stakeholders.  Department meetings.  Project meetings.  Board meetings.  All of these meetings consume time, energy, and focus. 

It is important to use meeting best practices to ensure every meeting produces results.  There is no bigger time-waster than for multiple people to spend time in meetings, agreeing to timelines and tasks, only to fail to meet those obligations due to poor meeting practices.  Poor meeting practices result in missed deadlines, unfinished tasks, and broken agreements.  Not only was the time spent in the meeting wasted, but then additional time was lost due in reviewing notes that grew stale and vague over time and even more time was spent reconstructing deadlines and next actions.  Worst of all, credibility suffers.

So what are the best practices for leading or participating in meetings?  Here are some top tips to ensure you are most effective before, during, and after a meeting.

The most fundamental principle underlying all meeting best practices is consideration.  Running an effective meeting–or being a good meeting participant–is all about being considerate of others. All other actions flow from this tenet.

BEFORE THE MEETING
Ensure the meeting is necessary.
If it is a regularly-held meeting, then carefully assess how often routine meetings really need to be held. For example, if you have daily staff meetings, how productive are they? Can they be held less frequently? Alternately, can they be held informally – for example, standing up – and kept to a few minutes? Staff meetings are crucial vehicles for maintaining good communication in the office, but it is important to find the right balance between good communication and productive use of time.

Identify the participants. 
If you are leading the meeting, identify who must attend and for whom the meeting is optional.  There is nothing worse than requiring people to attend meetings where they have nothing to contribute, their areas of responsibility are not involved, and they are assigned no tasks.  It is a waste of their time and the employer’s money. 

Set a convenient meeting time and place.
The time for which the meeting is scheduled is also important. Scheduling regular meetings for inconvenient times (e.g. after the end of the official work day) can have a very negative impact on morale.  Emergencies are a reality for most organizations and may necessitate meetings at odd times, but routine meetings should be scheduled at a time that is reasonably convenient for the participants.  The same is true for the location of the meeting.  If various people are coming together for a meeting and most are located in one place, then it is unreasonable to set the meeting in a location that is inconvenient to the majority, even if the meeting organizer has to travel to the meeting location.

Set / Review the agenda.
If you are the one organizing the meeting, set an agenda.  (Note:  If you don’t have anything to put on the agenda, that’s a good sign that you don’t need to meet.)  Distribute the agenda to participants at least a day before the event or longer to ensure everyone has time to prepare.  Make sure everyone has access to all relevant background materials.

If you are attending the meeting, review the agenda.  If the meeting organizer has not provided adequate information about the objectives of the meeting, take the initiative to ask.  You should not arrive at a meeting not knowing why you are there – and what is supposed to be accomplished.

Prepare for the meeting.
If this is a planning or strategy meeting, spend some time thinking about the topic and jotting down some ideas, questions or concerns.  If it is a follow-up Project or Department Meeting, review any tasks assigned to you. Hopefully everything is done.  If not, wrap up any loose ends you can prior to the meeting and determine how much time will be needed to complete unfinished tasks.  Make sure you have updated any information you need in order to be fully prepared for the meeting. 

Next week, we will review best practices for running or participating in a meeting.  Stay tuned. In the meantime, make sure you are prepared for any meetings you have this week! 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.” Milton Berle

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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