Applying Best Practices
Let's examine some general tips for organizing and running meetings.
- Invite the people who need to be thereand nobody else. If you have too many people, they might get bored and distract other attendees. But if you don't invite the right people, you might not get the information you need, or make decisions that stick. In your invitation, state the purpose for the meeting, so people can figure out if it's worth their while. You're asking them for their time, so make it clear you respect that precious resource.
- Publish the agenda early. If you can send the agenda with the invitation, that's even better. By making it clear that you have an agenda with a start and end time, and maybe even durations for each topic, you let people know you've thought through what this meeting should accomplish.
- Keep meetings short. It's best to keep meetings to under an hour and a half. People get bored after that. If you think you need more time, consider holding two meetings, where the second one might include a subset of the attendees of the first one.
- Get everyone's attention. At the beginning of the meeting, insist that cell phones be turned off and laptops closed. A nice way of making this point is to hold up your own phone and show everybody you're turning it off. Then close your laptop and invite attendees to do the same. If you're expecting your boss, avoid a potentially embarrassing situation by trying to get him or her to buy into this rule in private before starting the meeting.
- Review the agenda. Go over the agenda quickly at the beginning of the meeting, to make sure that everybody understands what's to be covered. Some people might want to add points. Others might have to step out at times when you planned for their participation, so you might need to modify the agenda. Try not to get bogged down in making these changes. The best way to prevent this problem is to poll people beforehand, to make sure that they're roughly in agreement with what's to be covered.
- Stick to the agenda. When the meeting discussion goes off in directions that are unproductive, remind people of the topic and the timetable. If you uncover something interesting that needs further treatment, you can schedule a discussion outside the meeting.
- Summarize decisions and important points as they're made. At the end of the meeting, make sure that everybody understands what the actions are and who is responsible for each one. Publish the minutes shortly after the meeting and follow up on the actions.
There you have it. If you follow these rules, your meetings will be more productive.