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Prevent Good Meetings from Going Bad

“Another meeting! If I didn’t ‘waste’ so much time in meetings, I might get some ‘real work’ done.” If you feel this way, your meetings may benefit from some fine-tuning. Take seven steps today to make your meetings more productive.

Have an Objective and an Agenda
Without an objective or agenda, time spent in a meeting can lead to less than stellar results. Set clear objectives, like project updates, creation of incentives to drive sales in a sector, or brainstorming cost-cutting measures. Be clear about the parameters of the discussion, and don’t overload the agenda. Provide attendees with the objective and agenda prior to the meeting.

Limit the Number of Participants
Sometimes less is more. Too many participants can slow the meeting process down. Office staff may be able to handle some of the objectives before the meeting via email or memo, which can reduce the number f participants to key representatives. Determine who needs to be present and create a plan to keep all those affected by the decision-making process “in the loop.”

Be Generous with Time, but not too Generous
Thirty minutes may be enough time to devote to a project update, but not enough if you are brainstorming on acquiring new technology for the office. Allow enough time for full consideration of the objective under discussion. Remember, meetings that last more than two hours can be draining. It may be best to schedule several meetings to discuss more complex issues, or, if you must meet for two or more hours, schedule one or two short breaks to allow people to move, check for important messages, and visit the restroom. When you break, set a firm time to resume and don’t allow discussion to continue into the break. Be sure to resume sharply on time, even if not all are back.

Meet, Don’t Eat!
Have plenty of water available, but unless you are planning a social event, it is best to keep food out of the conference room. The focus should be on collaborative effort to create effective business solutions, not on passing the roast beef. If a meeting falls close to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, take a break to eat, or eat before or after the meeting. This solution offers time to socialize in a work setting and time to get down to the business of working.

Someone Must Lead so that All may Succeed
A meeting with no facilitator can render meetings ineffective and inefficient. A facilitator encourages informative, yet succinct, input from everyone and allows time for everyone to offer their perspectives and viewpoints. Some of the best ideas may come from staffers who are often overlooked in light of more gregarious employees. The better and varied the dialogue and input, the better the decision-making process.

Be Clear about Follow Up
Dedicate time to set a follow-up meeting date and create a plan of action. Be sure that each of you knows what action is expected of you and when. It’s best to publish pertinent notes immediately after the meeting, including action items, decisions, and concerns. Any information that needs to be gathered should be sent to all meeting attendees well in advance of the next meeting for review.

Take Advantage of Available Resources
If you are having difficulty getting more from your meetings, there are many books available on the market that highlight meeting strategies. You might also consult with a meeting facilitator or a management professional with expertise in this area. Better planning, time management, organization, and facilitation can go far in making meetings more productive.

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