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Make Your Meetings Effective

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on August 28, 2008

We’ve all attended meetings that failed to start on time, ran way over, or simply felt like a waste of time because the agenda was not followed. When meetings get off track or drag on, people start thinking about other, more important things they could be doing.

So what’s the secret to an engaging, results-driven, on-schedule meeting where everyone is motivated to participate? Here are seven tips for keeping everyone tuned in and intent on giving their best throughout the meeting:

1. Issue an agenda so attendees can come prepared.
2. Ask for a volunteer to be a timekeeper for your meetings—make it his or her job to remind you of agenda item time limits. This frees you to focus on content.
3. Start and end on time! Keep to the agenda items and minimize off-topic conversations.
4. Establish ground rules for more effective meetings, including having only one person talk at a time—no side conversations.
5. Rotate the chairperson at each meeting to improve team members’ meeting-management skills and to get them more involved.
6. Gain consensus on decisions.
7. At the end of each meeting, have team members rate its effectiveness and ask for their input on ideas for improvement.

The key to successful meetings is to get attendees to agree that you will all operate by these guidelines. No one wants to participate in meetings that they feel are a waste of their time, so get their support in making sure that everyone is engaged, attentive, and, at the very least, awake.

Keith Ayers
Integro Leadership Institute
West Chester, Pa.

Reader Comments


September 1, 2008 4:51 PM

Some meetings can be a waste of time, even if an agenda is followed.

Some companies follow what other companies do, and became meeting happy.

I had a manager that wasted as much time in meetings as possible. Our weekly meeting was to help our manager identify undefined issues. Even with nothing to discuss, the meeting was drawn out for the full allotted time. Peeking at his daytimer, it was full of "meetings". His spare time was used to wander around, searching for other meetings to crash, I mean "attend", to fill up his day.

We had a manager that did not understand our jobs, and was afraid to ask because we might catch on. His peers held meetings, so we began to hold meetings. We received an e-mailed agenda 10-30 minutes before the meeting. It was a copy of his peer's agenda, issues that did not affect us, or which we did not have. We had no information regarding the issues.

Our manager did not want to get involved with any issues we brought up, so it was pretty much resolve it yourself.

After determining what the predetermined decision was, we reached "consensus". If you had an alternate solution, you had a discussion with the boss regarding continued employment.

Regarding rating its effectiveness and input on ideas for improvement, there was never any info to determine anything, and if ideas for improvement did not match the ideas that was discussed in the other meetings, and never shared with us, they were "no good".

Discussing obvious solutions would get you labeled as not being a team player, with the resulting memo sent to the department about you "deciding to advance your career by seeking opportunities elsewhere". For those unfamiliar with such memos, translation from corporatespeak is laid off.

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