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EFFECTIVE MEETINGS: How to Run Productive Meetings

Updated on April 12, 2014
A typical board meeting
A typical board meeting | Source

Meetings are meant to be forums for communication and planning. However, many companies have turned meetings into endless routines where nothing useful appears to be gained. This can be changed if meetings were planned and organised with the aim of achieving positive results for the company. Here are a few pointers that can change the way we approach meetings.

Why hold meetings?

Meetings are important because they provide a forum where important decisions can be reached and communicated across an organisation. They can be used to brainstorm on solutions to persistent problems affecting the company, and also to review progress of on-going projects. Meetings are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of a company's processes in achieving the goals of customer satisfaction. However, meetings have become a necessary evil that many people attend only because they have to. Many man-hours have been lost in unproductive, tedious and unnecessarily long meetings that do not serve any purpose other than a forum to flex political muscle within an organisation. This hub discusses the basic conditions needed to have productive and engaging meetings.

The 5 W's and 1 H of a Meeting

WHY is the meeting necessary?

WHAT is the agenda?

WHERE is the meeting going to be held?

WHO is to attend the meeting?

WHEN is the meeting going to be held?

HOW will the meeting be run?

1. Is the Meeting Necessary?

Do you really need to hold the meeting? This is the first question you should ask before you pull people out of their busy schedules. The purpose of the meeting should be very clear and one should look at alternative means of attaining the goals of the meeting.

If you can achieve your goals through other means, for example e-mail or a phone call it would be better to do so before resorting to a meeting. If the meeting is only intended to communicate a message it would be better if one explored other ways of getting the message across.

Do you feel that meetings in your organisation take too long?

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2. Set goals for the meeting

If you have decided to meet it is important that you set the goals of the meeting and the expected deliverables at the outset. Calling a meeting without these leads to long unproductive sessions that leave the attendees feeling exhausted and frustrated. It is a good practice to include these goals in the agenda of the meeting which should be set during the last meeting.

3. Set a date and duration for meeting

The meeting should have a clearly set duration so that the attendees can plan their other activities with this in mind. Companies where people do not have a set duration for meetings have to cancel all other engagements because they are not sure how long the meetings are going to last.

4. Invite the right people to the meeting

Only invite people who are required to meetings so that there is clear flow of information and that there is a need for them to be there. In many cases, meetings are full of people who would rather be somewhere else engaging in more productive activities. In some cases so many people from the same department are called to meetings leaving the department understaffed and unable to function. The meeting should have a few representatives from one function of the organisation who will speak on their behalf and leave the rest to do value added work.

5. Assign roles for the meeting

The meeting should have a facilitator, timekeeper and note taker. The facilitator is the person who calls the meeting and provides all the necessary resources to ensure it succeeds. He should drive the meeting and decide on who attends and how the meeting is run. The time keeper ensures that the meeting starts and ends on time and that participants are aware of how the time is progressing. The note taker records the proceedings of the meeting and the decisions and further actions needed.

10 Barriers to Effective Meetings

These barriers to effective meetings are to be avoided if you are going to have productive meetings in your work place:

  1. Calling a meeting without an agenda
  2. Inviting everybody to the meeting
  3. Not setting a time limit for the meeting
  4. Not allowing contributions by attendees
  5. Talking too much
  6. Not inviting the right people to the meeting
  7. Failing to follow up on resolutions of the last meeting
  8. Failing to assign responsibilities to the attendees
  9. Extending the meeting at the expense of other organizational duties
  10. Using the meeting to settle political scores

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