One of the most frustrating elements of many managers’ calendars are meetings. If you ask people they typically feel there are too many people present, the meetings take too long, some individuals talk too much, many people are off-topic and unprepared plus there are no or few decisions made which leads to a general feeling that there is no clear agreed path forward. This tool I am sharing helps a chairperson to prepare for a meeting and communicate the specific objectives of the meeting and also for every agenda item.
Some of the meeting maladies mentioned above can be cured simply by creating and distributing an agenda before having a meeting. This tool goes further though – it also helps to create clarity around each agenda item’s purpose in informing participants or driving specific decisions to move a project or initiatives forward.
The tool already contains an example to illustrate its use. Just replace the agenda items shown with your own meeting agenda items and then complete each column as demonstrated to clarify the person responsible for the agenda item, the purpose of each item, the allocated time and the expected outcome for each of the agenda items. Do share the objectives, time available and expected outcomes with those who are assigned to each agenda item – it helps him or her be prepared to guide the conversation and discussion accordingly.
Even with an agenda and a well-planned meeting there may be times when things need to change as it becomes clear that an issue requires to be solved right-away. Give yourself the leeway to abandon the agenda for a particular meeting to deal with such an important issue or set another meeting right after the planned meeting to address the issue. To continue with a planned meeting simply because it was planned makes no sense if everyone in the room knows that an important issue is not being addressed and there is no plan to address it urgently. Their minds would be on the other issue and you would most likely not have the level of participation you need to successfully go through your planned meeting.
Some successful chairpersons make use of meeting “agreements” or “ground rules” to further improve the quality of the meeting. Some have items such as “each speaker gets a maximum of 1 minute to make his or her point” and “we debate issues and we respect the opinions of others.”
To know if your meetings are getting better – get feedback from your meeting participants. Take a few minutes at the end of the meeting to ask what went well and what could be better in future – exactly how. Reviewing the feedback when you plan the next meeting can help you to be mindful of further improvements that can be included going forward.
I hope this tool helps you plan your next meeting and move closer to having productive meetings which helps you progress your project or initiative as you had hoped.