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If you have to have a meeting, make it matteron 12 April 2017Posted by Jacqui Hogan
Most of us would really rather not have to have big meetings. However, they are sometimes hard to avoid when you need to discuss something critical, or you need to make an important decision. While meeting together is sometimes essential, it can also be an expensive and time-consuming business.
Today, we are fortunate to have a wide choice of technology solutions that make it possible to make meetings more effective. Here are some tips to make your meetings more manageable.
1. Is your meeting really necessary?
It may seem odd to ask this question first, but it is actually a crucial thing to ask. Many people have meetings for the sake of meetings, when information sharing or decision-making could be done in other ways. When everyone was working in the same office, it was easy to gather at short notice. Nowadays, this habit is costly and time consuming, when potential attendees are spread across many different locations even countries. When thinking about holding a face-to-face meeting, consider the travel time that may be incurred, and decide, do we really need to meet?
Do not invite anyone to (or attend) a meeting if they are not crucial to the purpose.
2. Agreeing the scope and purpose
As an attendee, it can often be hard to determine whether you need to attend a meeting, when the purpose may not be initially clear. The result? Everyone attends every meeting 'just in case’. With new technology, there is now the opportunity to discuss the purpose of the meeting in advance with all potential participants. That way, everyone attending is clear about the purpose of the meeting. You set up an initial meeting discussion area, where key parties discuss and agree the purpose of the meeting. This then will form an area in which relevant reports are shared in advance, and other relevant preparatory material is stored.
It is even possible that you then decide you no longer need a meeting.
3. Advanced polling of times/dates
Having made the decision to meet, one of the first decisions is to decide when, where and for how long. You (or your PA) could spend hours on the phone calling attendees to find out when they are available. On the other hand, you could send out vast quantities of emails to find this out.
These days, we have tools that allow you to set up an online poll that all potential attendees can see and update in their own time. This not only saves a lot of everyone’s time, but also encourages people to alter their own schedules to fit in with the best time and date for the majority.
4. Sharing information in advance
Get the attendees involved in some of the detail in advance of the meeting, and keep this information somewhere where everyone can add to it, fine-tune the detail, and correct it. This will create a sense of ownership, encourage a feeling of collaborative team working, and generate alignment of purpose. Again, you may also find that not everyone now needs to attend the meeting.
Having set up a shared meeting area in advance of the meeting, means there is no excuse for anyone attending not to have read the relevant material. To ensure that this happens, you can ask people to electronically ‘initial’ documents to indicate that they have read them. If this is visible to the other attendees, this also allows other attendees to know who is prepared, and who is not.
Using a shared area, rather than relying on email, means that reports and other material are easily available. No more ‘it must be in spam’ excuses.
5. Meeting etiquette
If attendees have all read the material in advance, the meeting itself can be shorter as it is only necessary to ask for questions about the report contents, not to read the entire reports out at the meeting. Some general tips:
- Put agenda items in order of importance. That way you have a fighting chance of getting the most important stuff done.
- Set a time limit for the meeting. Meetings generally should not last more than 2 hours – people will not stay focused for longer. If you need to meet for longer -have two meetings. Long meetings encourage wafflers, complainers and the unprepared.
- Set a rough time limit on individual agenda items. If one item is getting bogged down, you probably need a separate meeting to sort it out.
- The chair should chair. You cannot chair a meeting effectively if you get embroiled in the details of an agenda item. It is like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. Some clever individuals can do it, but most of us end up looking foolish and doing neither well.
- Pick a location without interruptions. This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people don’t do this.
- Do not allow anyone to have their mobile phone on. If they are waiting for a call, they won’t be focused on the meeting.
6. Post meeting sharing
Get someone other than the chair to record decisions and actions directly into an online document in the shared meeting area. Then a record of the agreed decisions and actions is available immediately. Attendees can post amendments and updates immediately too, while the meeting is still fresh in their minds.
I am sure you have had an experience like this. You held your meeting, only to discover later that Jan did not remember that she had agreed to update the spreadsheets, so Michael has not done the report he was supposed to do. Their excuse? The minutes of the previous meeting only came out the day before the next meeting.
After the meeting, get the attendees involved in some of the detail of checking, and keep this information somewhere where everyone can add to it, fine-tune the detail, and correct it. This will create a sense of ownership, encourage a feeling of collaborative team working and generate alignment of purpose. This will increase the likelihood that agreed action are done when they should be.
7. One place to find them all
Having one place to find all your shared information about a meeting will save a lot of scratched heads in the event you need to refer back to understand the background to a crucial decision.
Sharing these all in one place, means everyone will be accessing the same information. It will improve your audit trail and reduce potential mistakes made based on out of date information.
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use and secure collaboration tool set for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help you take control of your knowledge +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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