Do you worry people groan when they need to attend a meeting you’ve organized? Maybe you’re worried about boredom, or frustration, so why not do things differently? Let’s explore ways you can make your meetings less painful and more successful.
Firstly, carefully plan your meetings before you even issue invitations. Most importantly, decide what is the objective of the meeting; you may even have a few. Give the meeting a title and try to keep away from generalizations, such as “budget meeting”, “marketing meeting”. Tell people what you want to achieve. You may, for example, call it “meeting to save $400 per annum on our stationery expenditure” or “huddle to find 3 ideas to increase our sales by 5% next month”.
If you have several objectives you could list these as agenda items, rather than simply listing topics; here are some examples:
Who do you need for the meeting? Make sure you only involve those who really need to attend and who can contribute and benefit by being there. Some people may only need to attend for specific items and may not need to stay for the entire meeting.
When you invite them, make it sound interesting, exciting, stimulating, valuable:
Don’t feel the meeting needs to be a precise block of time, simply because Outlook or Google defaults to that - make it what you need it to be, whether that’s 45 minutes, 35 minutes, 85 minutes.
If you have the facilities, think about the meeting place; does it have to be in a meeting room or could you meet in the restaurant, in reception, in the kitchen, by the river, in the park… and don’t forget, people don’t necessarily need to be sitting down. Here's a great idea:
Think about what equipment or tools may be needed: IT equipment, telephones, Artificial Intelligence (AI), paper, name plates, pens; do attendees need to bring laptops, iPads, etc.? Many people who attend my PA training courses now talk about having Amazon Alexa or Google available during the meeting to check any information such as train or flight times, venue or city data, etc. and using smart pens to take notes. Are there any special needs to be considered? Do you need hearing loops, easy access, signers? Do you have flipcharts, white boards (or are your walls already white boarded)? Do you need stickers or any other stationery for activities during the meeting? Do attendees need to have installed any apps?
If people are attending from outside your organization, do you need signage, are there security issues, do the attendees know to bring ID if needed? They may also need to be given directions, parking instructions, etc.
During the meeting
We’ve now got everybody there and we’re ready to start. The Chairperson should welcome everyone to the meeting, make any introductions, if needed (and that includes introducing the minute taker… many don’t), and make sure all the ground rules are clear. Many companies have their rules posted on meeting room walls. These may include:
Then the discussions can begin. The Chairperson, with the help of the minute taker, should ensure everyone keeps to time and that the meeting moves effectively and efficiently. You may occasionally want to get other people to chair the meeting to give some variety. It is also a great training opportunity for less experienced staff.
Here are some ideas to keep people stimulated and energized:
An excellent Chairperson will always summarize regularly during a meeting; confirming what has been agreed, what actions are required, by whom and for when. This is incredibly helpful for the minute taker and the attendees.
If you are chairing a meeting and there are people more senior involved, remember you are in charge; don’t let them take over. Calm any tensions and immediately stop any unpleasantness. At the end of the meeting, confirm what happens next and thank everyone for attending.
After the meeting
The Chairperson and minute taker may want to chat to clarify any issues before the minutes are produced, checked and issued as quickly as possible.
Your overall goal should be to always think differently so you can keep people stimulated, energized, and productive. Good luck!