Monday Mornings with Madison



Last week, we determined that it is important to use best practices to ensure that the myriad of business meetings we attend are productive.  Specific actions were recommended to ensure that every person attending a meeting is fully prepared to participate and contribute.

However, all the pre-meeting preparation is for naught if certain protocols are not followed during the meeting to ensure it is productive.  Again, consideration and a respect for others are fundamental principles guiding meeting etiquette.  Here are some meeting protocol tips to ensure you reap the greatest benefit from every meeting you attend.

Come prepared.
Bring your meeting folder, reference materials, and updated reports for which you were responsible from the last meeting.  Also make sure you have note-taking materials to record comments, decisions, and agreements.

Tech Suggestion:  You might want to try Microsoft OneNote, the missing link between the linear note-taking of word processor and list manager and mind-mapping software.  You can place notes anywhere on the page, move points around as relationships begin to appear between data points, and add graphics and sound to the document.  You can even add a microphone and tape important points of a meeting and make the recording part of the OneNote document.  This is great for confirming who agreed to what on important agenda points.  One can designate comments that have been typed into the document as Next Steps with appropriate check boxes.  A few clicks transfer the Next Steps to Outlook’s Task Pad. 

Start on time.  Be on time.
It is important to be on time and start the meeting on time.  This applies to everyone attending the meeting.  Starting on time requires discipline by the organizer and the participants. Arriving late shows a lack of consideration for all those who were on time. But if all participants know that the organizer is going to start the meeting right on time, there is a much greater likelihood that everyone else will make the effort to be punctual.

Identify a recorder to take notes.

If you are orchestrating the meeting, be sure to have someone take notes during the meeting. It is usually not the person running the meeting because it is difficult to lead and takes notes.  The recorder should make sure to record all decisions reached, actions to be taken, individuals responsible and deadlines set.

Pay attention.
For those attending the meeting, it is not enough to just show up on time.  Pay attention (and that means not drifting off and daydreaming).  Listen to others.  Take notes.  Don’t use a Blackberry or iPhone to answer emails.  Make contributions when you can.  Identify comments, decisions, and next actions that belong to you and record them in a trusted system so they can be acted on later.

Stay focused.
For those leading meetings, beware that most groups have at least one person who tends to go off on a tangent or tell stories during meetings.  The meeting organizer and participants have the responsibility of gently guiding the meeting back to the substantive agenda items. This should not be done at the expense of all levity, of course, as that is an important ingredient for esprit de corps. Also, storytelling can be very useful if it is being used deliberately as a coaching or teaching tool.  However, if the meeting clearly goes off track, someone should guide the discussion back to the agenda.

Assign next steps.
Next Steps should be assigned.  Often, decisions are reached and actions identified, but no particular individual is assigned responsibility for one or multiple tasks.  It is best to identify the specific person – not just a department – to handle the task.  Make sure that all Next Steps and project responsibilities are clear and established. Alternatively, someone can be assigned to see the project through to fruition. 

Set deadlines.
Deadlines for projects and updates should be set and agreed to by all.  The secretary should record deadlines in the minutes and each participant should record due dates on Next Actions (that are time/date specific) and projects on one’s own calendar.  At the end of the meeting, if another meeting is required, that meeting date should be established and put into the minutes and everyone’s personal calendars.

End on time.
Finishing in a timely manner is also crucial. If everyone agreed that the meeting would last an hour, the meeting should not run any longer than that. Keeping the agenda realistic is important, of course. Finally, if only 20 minutes are required to accomplish the meeting objectives, the meeting should end after only 20 minutes. It would be a waste of everyone’s time to let it go on any longer than that.

Next week, we will wrap our meeting best practices series by reviewing what to do after the meeting.  Don’t miss it!

“To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.” Robert Copeland

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

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