There have been several occasions when I have sat through meetings which went on and on and finally when it ended, no one had a clue about what happened or what were the next course of action !
Meetings are an integral part of business. Conducting an effective meeting is an art. The facilitator or the organizer should have the necessary skills to conduct meetings which will bring about some decisions or results. The following are some tips from my experiences :
- Have a well defined Agenda : This is the cornerstone of an effective meeting. The agenda should be crisp, precise and to the point. When the meeting invite is being sent , the Agenda should be mentioned in it and if possible, each agenda point should have a planned duration mentioned against it.
- Time, time. time : Always start and end the meeting on time. Starting late is not an excuse for ending late. For cross functional meetings which included a large number of participants , if needed , a gentle reminder can be sent on the previous day. It is a good practice to put a reminder( 15 min) in the meeting invite. And what sometimes worked for me is that when I had to wait for some people, I used to count the number of people waiting for them and wrote how many person hours were wasted waiting for the late-comers. I wrote it on the white board ! And it sure worked. The latecomers were always on time after that.
- Assign Ownership : All meetings should have some action items or deliverables. The action items should have owners assigned to them with a planned target date. If the meeting is a recurring one , then these action items should be tracked in the meeting and the owners should be answerable for these. Do remember that multiple ownership does not work. Have a single owner.
- Decision Maker : Discussions and different point of views should be encouraged in meetings, but sometimes the situation becomes chaotic. In such circumstances, have a clear decision maker. But do make sure that the meeting members understand that whatever decision is being taken in the meeting , should be endorsed by everybody when they leave the meeting. Any disagreements should be tackled in follow-up meetings.
- "KISS" : Keep It Short and Simple ! As far as possible , try to keep the meeting short , have fewer people and agenda items. I have seen people lose interest and stop contributing after 30 minutes. It is also important to select the meeting participants appropriately. People should understand "what is it in for me ?"
- Summarize : The best option is to create Minutes of the meeting (MOM). The next best thing is to summarize the discussion points, action items and deliverables in an email/memo and send it to all the participants right after the meeting.
- Have fun : Last but not at the least, infuse humor wherever appropriate. Make the meeting interesting by good presentations, graphs, emoticons and smiles.
Happy meetings !