Most people believe meetings are a waste of time. However, meetings can be highly productive. Holding productive meetings doesn’t happen by magic, but requires specific ground rules to be followed. Here are the rules for making your meetings effective every time.
- Have an agenda. The person requesting the meeting is responsible for creating an agenda. At the very least, the agenda states the purpose and desired outcome(s) of the meeting. It also provides the time, place, and date for the meeting as well as who will be attending.
- Specify meeting policies. The policies need to be in writing and provided to each attendee. They should be distributed and reviewed before the formal meeting begins. Typical policies of productive meetings include:
- Don’t be late for the meeting! If you arrive more than 5 minutes after the scheduled time, you are considered late.
- Everyone is required to participate and the facilitator makes sure that the policy is followed.
- There are to be no interruptions from outside sources during the meeting; this includes phone calls and messages. The only exception is for an immediate family emergency.
- What is discussed during the meeting is considered confidential among the attendees and is not to be shared with others outside of the meeting unless specified otherwise.
- Respect all attendees. Personal attacks are not tolerated.
- Only one attendee speaks at a time.
- Begin and end all meetings on time.
- Assign tasks. The meeting leader or facilitator assigns a specific task for each attendee. The tasks can range from gathering data or analyzing data to producing a chart or writing a report. Timelines need to be established for each task; i.e., milestones and completion dates.
- Set meeting responsibilities. There needs to be someone responsible for keeping track of the time, taking the meeting’s minutes, and facilitating the meeting itself.
- Stick to the agenda. Information that is important but not germane to the topic being discussed should be noted for discussion at a future meeting.
- Require progress reports. All attendees must comment on the progress of their specific tasks, which includes difficulties as well as achievements.
- Perform a meeting synopsis. The leader should review all decisions that were made and all action items to be completed for the next meeting.
- Conduct a meeting assessment. At the close of each meeting ask, “what did we do well and where can we improve?”
When you incorporate and follow these rules, you will make effective use of your meeting time and significantly increase your productivity.