“Meetings are where someone takes minutes and the rest of us waste hours” – James Larkin Jones O.M. They do not need to be. Powerful and useful meetings have three major purposes:
- Define goals and problems, and agree the best way(s) forward.
- Share defined and valuable information.
- Review successes and shortcomings from previous actions – to further enable #1 above.
The Secret to Successful Meetings
The three single most important elements to ensure successful meetings are both general and specific:
- General – Develop a corporate culture based on individual and team responsibility that focuses on effective actions.
- Specific – Create and publish the right meeting agenda.
- Specific – Lead the meeting and the individual meeting topics in a positive and consistent way.
We will assume your business or department has a positive culture. If it does, we can stay with the specific, but if it does not, you can begin to develop the culture through your approach to meetings. As your culture develops, your meetings will become more and more effective.
The 10 Rules for the Right Agenda
Rule #1: No agenda, no meeting (no ifs, ands or buts).
Rule #2: Give the meeting a title, so attendees’ minds are focused from Line 1.
Rule #3: List the meeting’s purpose(s) immediately below the title.
Rule #4: List the attendees by name (and job title if appropriate) so everyone knows who will be there. They can use that information, for example, to prepare more clearly; discuss topics before the meeting with each other, so they will not take up everyone else’s time during the meeting. It may even help them to get into the right frame of mind, or simply dress appropriately (if there will be outside guests in attendance).
Rule #5: Only invite people who have a reason to be there. E.g. they are responsible for a topic on the agenda; they will learn something essential to their own area of responsibility; they have knowledge, or a skill set, that other attendees need, etc.
Rule #6: List agenda topics in the most appropriate order.
Rule #7: Add to each agenda topic the reason it is on the agenda, and include the name of the person who will lead the topic.
Rule #8: Indicate how much time will be given to each topic.
Rule #9: Decide whether to include a process for each topic (presentation by topic leader, followed by, e.g., questions/agreement/individual action(s) to be taken)
Rule #10: Have a final review element, so attendees can say what, as far as the meeting was concerned, worked well, could have worked better, suggestions for any follow-on meeting, etc.
Effective meetings depend on more than the agenda; they depend on the right people being in the meeting and in the company.
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