To run effective meetings, you must control both the length of the meeting and the meeting itself. One executive claims she spends about six hours per day in meetings. Regardless of whether you spend one hour or six hours each day, there is considerable time savings to be realized by running meetings effectively, and keeping them brief. If you want to know how to run effective meetings, here is a summary of the most important things to keep in mind when calling a meeting.
Invite only those who are essential to the success of the meeting. Forget protocol, pecking order or business etiquette. If people are unlikely to contribute to or benefit from the meeting, don’t include them. Try to keep the total number of attendees below 8 people.
Plan the meeting in advance. Go beyond outlining an agenda; actually anticipate which topics will generate the most discussion, disagreement and time loss. Leave the contentious issues until the end – when most people will be anxious to leave. Put the priority items that will generate the least discussion near the start of the meeting. Allocate time limits to each agenda item.
Start on time. Don’t make exceptions. If the boss arrives late, explain to him or her that you are now on item 2 or 3. Don’t apologize for being prompt and efficient. Resist the urge to summarize the progress to date for every late arrival. If they ask, tell them you’ll update them after the meeting.
Make notes at every meeting and encourage others to do likewise. Record decisions reached, actions required, individuals responsible for the various actions and the expected completion dates. Review this information at the end of the meeting to ensure that everyone is clear as to his or her responsibilities.
Don’t waste the group’s time on an individual’s responsibilities. If you have made a group decision and provided input, assign the action to someone and leave it with him or her. If a few people have some strong feelings about how something should be done, ask them to submit the suggestions in writing to the person to whom you have delegated the job.
Always take a few minutes after every meeting to evaluate how it went. Jot down what you will do next time to improve the process. Continually strive to reduce the time loss and increase the value of every meeting you attend.