In the land of business there is always a need to have meetings. Many consider meetings a complete waste of time but when handled correctly can push a business to the next level of success. The key is when you have a meeting to have a plan, make it effective, and not waste people's time so that they can continue to be effective. Over the years I have been in more meetings than I care to count. Many have been good but more often than not they were a waste of everyone's time as not everything was properly prepared beforehand. After each meeting whether I held it or someone else did I took some personal notes and thought I would share as many of the items have been shared but I have never run across a blog post that covered all in a single post that was short, sweet, concise, and didn't waste my time. So, let's take a look at the list.
When a meeting is needed the following is what needs to happen to be effective for the entire team:
Define the who
This is the area where you define "who" is attending the meeting. Do not choose everyone!!! That is a waste of valuable resources as well as will make the meeting a failure. Exceptions are annual meetings where everyone is required to attend.
Every meeting consists of two or more people. A meeting should be set with those that are required to attend to be effective. Attendees that are not required but can positively contribute should be invited as "optional" for those that have nothing else going on and can positively contribute to the meeting. The final who are the resources that define items like where the meeting is, projectors, televisions, etc. that are needed to further enhance and add value to the meeting.
If a person should know of the meeting but can be given a summary of what happened after the meeting do so. Don't invite the boss to a meeting just so they can sit through an hour meeting where you could give them a 15-minute recap and keep them more effective and productive for 45-minutes.
A meeting should be kept as small as possible. When you invite more people than needed several items happen. The meetings tend to get off-track, they often don't produce the results that were originally intended, and many of the people twiddle their thumbs and don't do anything in the meeting.
What are you talking about
For any meeting to be effective you need an "agenda" that covers what is being talked about. This is ultimately the purpose of why everyone is taking time out of their busy day to meet.
If an agenda cannot be decided on there really should be no meeting until one is decided. This allows the people attending the meeting to be prepared and have any required materials on-hand so that the meeting comes out with the positive results everyone wants. There will always be questions that aren't on the agenda but with an agenda the meeting will go smoothly as well as help in determining the length of the meeting.
When you are invited to a meeting you should read over the entire agenda and create any talking points you need to be aware of. Even weeks before the meeting is a wise thing to do. You will see that even though the meeting is happening it allows you to be thinking of it subconsciously and be more mentally prepared for the meeting. I have done this and in "cooler talk" in a few minutes that hour meeting will vanish as it was handled in a quick five-minute conversation or it allows for the agenda to be amended to cover an important item that was forgotten.
Where should you meet
The "where" of the meeting isn't necessarily the office conference room, the boss's office, an employee's office, or the local coffee shop. Deciding where you need to meet take into account what is being discussed, what if people overhear (is that bad or acceptable).
Then you need the when to meet
If you are kicking off a new product the "when" is before the product launches. The when should be timed to fit correctly into what is being talked about. When it comes to when there are three items that need to be figured out. The date that you are going to meet, the time of the day you will meet, and the length of the meeting. If the meeting is going over lunch for people (don't forget your time zones!!!) are you providing a lunch for a working lunch, breaking for lunch (or it could be dinner), etc. Account that people have lives outside of work. Don't assume just because your schedule is available that you should inconvenience everyone else. That will be setting the meeting up for failure from the start.
When choosing to meet do not start late or end after the meeting. If people are late they are being rude to everyone else that is attending (even if it is just a two-person meeting). Start your meetings on-time and end on-time.
We live in a technological world that requires us to "always be connected". In a meeting this can be a true killer for efficiency and staying on task. Only use technology that is required for the meeting. Have people leave their cell phones, tablets, and other devices out of the meeting unless they are required for the meeting.
Conclusion on to meet
With the above you have the necessary items for a meeting but you still are not done. Even with all the above your meeting will fail if you don't adhere to this final hard and fast rule. This could be the one piece that either makes or breaks your meeting. That is sticking to your agenda/time and staying the course. If you start going off track make a note and schedule it for a new meeting (yes another). The next is keeping the time right. If the meeting is running long end the meeting. Yes, end it! Schedule another meeting to continue the discussion with a new agenda. The new agenda will most likely be a modified version of the current agenda.
All done or are you done
With the meeting now complete and you did all of the necessary items your still not done. You need to follow up on the vital components of the meeting with those people involved. A good meeting sets "to do" items for those in the meeting and you need to make certain those items are being taken care of, and done correctly to what was discussed in the meeting. Often a quick phone call, email, or a cooler conversation can handle this necessary communication. For more in-depth conversation you should have a meeting (with an agenda, time, place, etc.) setup before the one meeting was complete unless you left it open ended based on when the items were completed.
By doing all of the above you will have meetings that are effective, don't waste the time of those not necessary, and people will not dread going into meetings (as much).