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Meetings are an essential tool for getting things done by collaboration. Last week I attended a meeting that I felt was very productive. Even though it was not very long, we could finish discussing most of the things that we had set out to. Unfortunately, most of the corporate meetings don’t go that way. Here’s a checklist on how to have more effective meetings.
Create a clear Agenda
It goes without saying that except for some routine meetings, most meetings must have a clear agenda in place. It’s even desirable to have the structure of the meeting broken down and planned out in advance as well as communicated to all the attendees. Go one level further and clarify the deliverable to be accomplished. Do include the assignee, the deliverable and a due date against the task.
Have a re-look at the list of attendees
It’s a good practice to review the list of attendees to include only those people who really need to be present in such a meeting. Having a long list of attendees, some of whom won’t be able to contribute much is an avoidable time-waster.
Have a start and end time
Most meetings stretch beyond the ideal time that it should take to discuss a similar agenda. When meetings start late, in a way the punctual members are being penalized for being punctual! As they find that it’s okay to come a bit late, the latecomers might get conditioned to always come 5-10 minutes later than the stipulated time. If possible, schedule meetings before specific time-bound events. For example, if the expected ideal duration that the meeting should last is an hour, while the lunch hour starts at 1 PM, how about scheduling the meeting at 11:45 AM?
Establish ground rules
Every organisation should have firmly established ground rules for meetings. It should be stipulated whether coffee or snacks are allowed or not. Also, cellular phones, tablets or laptops should only be allowed in case they are to be used for the purpose of the meeting. Chit-chat should be minimized to the maximum extent possible, and one person should be responsible for redirecting the focus of the discussion back to the agenda.
Document the meeting
Assign a person to document and summarize the meeting objectives discussed, issues resolved, and tasks assigned. It should be the responsibility of this person to review all the action items and ensure consent of the assignee and also share the minutes with all the participants so that they don’t miss out anything.
Stand up meetings?
If the agenda allows, try having stand-up meetings as these tend to get rarely off-topic and take lesser time to discuss the core issues. Bonus: You are not restricted to the boardroom for having these meetings.
Meetings that have the desired outcome spelled out usually tend to have more focused discussion, add to that a detailed description of the problem statement and a time constraint and you will have the most effective meetings that you’ve ever had.
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