Productive meetings don’t just happen. They require planning and structure to be effective. Chances are you have been part of a potentially valuable meeting that didn’t reach its potential. Why, what caused it to be ineffective? Consider the following reasons:
-A key person was absent (the person had important information, or needed to be there before a final decision could be reached).
-The meeting did not have a published agenda (it wasn’t available before the meeting or at the meeting).
-Meeting participants did not understand the objectives or purpose of the meeting.
-Participants were not prepared for the meeting and had unclear expectations (they were not sure why they were invited).
-The meeting facilities were poor (poor lighting, too crowded, uncomfortable seating arrangements, or unsatisfactory acoustics).
-Equipment or materials necessary to conduct the meeting were missing due to lack of planning or follow-through.
-The facilitator was unprepared.
-Starting and ending time were disregarded.
I remember going to a meeting in Grand Rapids where the facilitator was supposed to ask for feedback from the audience on a variety of topics, and then record them on a flip chart. The problem was the facilitator arrived late, did not have flip chart paper to record the information on, and did not have a marker to write with. How would you guess the meeting went?
Taking the time to plan will prevent these kinds of frustrating experiences. The following key actions will help you prepare and will help you establish an effective framework for conducting your meetings.
Prior to the meeting (think through the following steps and plan accordingly):
1 Define the purpose and desired outcomes. Why are we having a meeting? Where are we going with this meeting, and what are trying to accomplish? Valuable time and talent will be wasted without answering these questions. What are desired outcomes? Answer the following questions to develop a desired outcome(s):
-What are the topics that will be discussed in the meeting?
-What do you want to accomplish as a result of the meeting?
-What do you expect participants to do? Contribute information, ideas, questions, suggestions, make recommendations, decisions, make commitment(s), provide feedback?