How to Run an Effective Meeting
6th July 2012
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How to Run an Effective Meeting

As a manager I had to make sure people turned up to meetings and left with a purpose that improved the business. As a director I have to make sure the managers run meetings that are efficient and effective.

The first thing is to decide what kind of meeting it is, are you looking for information? Is it an update meeting? Is it pro-active or re-active? You can put most types of meetings into three categories:

An informative meeting is a relevant discussion, for instance, a change in legislation that has an impact on the company. These informative meetings should have lots of preparation by the individuals with the knowledge to outline the situation and the impact expected. There should be time allowed for open discussion, questions and suggestions. Somebody should be taking notes and a good idea is to have a big wipe board to scribble things on. When the information is out and understood, there needs to be a plan of ‘next steps’ - who’s going to do what and when? This makes the next meeting an update meeting;

Update meetings are very tasked based and call people to action, e.g. ‘what have you done’, ‘where are you up to’, ‘when will it arrive’, etc. This kind of meeting should be chaired by one person who keeps it to a minimum and with no detail discussed. A simple spread sheet where you mark off the completed tasks and add in the new ones with when and by whom they’re going to be completed. Everybody needs to know exactly who’s doing what and by when and they should be challenged if it hasn’t been done by the next meeting. A separate conversion with them after the meeting making it clear that they are expected to get the tasks completed. Repeatedly not finishing tasks has a negative impact on the team;

A pro-active or re-active meeting is when you need to react to something. These meetings tend to be quite intensive or urgent, e.g. the pro-active meeting would be something you would do after finding out your biggest customer has gone bust and you will have put things in place to allow for the lost sales coming up, a re-active meeting is what you would do after an accident at work.

These meetings can be intense and important because it is about damage limitation, things have gone wrong and you need to react quickly to reduce the amount of damage done to moral, sales, profits and your business’ image and reputation. These meetings should include conversations on what external specialists may be needed to help.

The most important thing is that any meeting:

  • Starts on time, no excuses
  • Has everybody turning up
  • Is absolutely clear on the subject
  • Has an objective and targets
  • Has responsibilities and time scales to complete actions
  • Does not go into too much unnecessary detail
  • Has an agreed date for the follow-up meeting

Also ask yourself:

  • Do I really need to have a meeting?
  • Is there a more efficient way I can do this?
  • Am I inviting the right people?
  • Are we being too ambitious with the deadline dates?
  • Are the right people taking on the right tasks?

My experience of poorly executed meetings have been vast and here is a list of things you should look out for:

  • The same person or persons not turning up or always having something more important or urgent to do.
  • Same people not getting tasks done
  • Always being late
  • Getting called out of the meeting
  • Taking on tasks that are really easy (these people jump in and say I’ll sort that out and they come across as really enthusiastic. All they’re doing is grabbing the tasks that they can tell somebody else to do)
  • Going into too much detail
  • Drifting off topic

Chairing a meeting can be quite difficult for some people, you can quite easily get drawn in and the meeting goes on too long and/or achieves nothing.

There’s lots of advice and help with arranging meetings such as Business Balls try them out but there’s nothing better than being fully aware all through the meeting and spending 10 minutes thinking and reflecting on how it went and learning for next time.

Please give feedback on your thoughts on the time management techniques that have been discussed and any time management tips you would like to share.

David Chapman - Melius

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