I have written about effective meeting management several times on this blog before, but I wanted to focus a post on how to effectively control a meeting.
Most adult professionals spend over 75% of their work week in meetings. Most adult professionals see these meetings as giant time suckers (anecdotal data…). The improvement opportunity is for the meeting leaders to control the flow of the meeting more effectively. Here are some tips (and no judgment here if you kindly forward this to your “favorite” meeting leader…).
The greatest improvement opportunity for most meetings is to have an agenda prepared and distributed ahead of time. Most meeting agendas could be much simpler than you’re probably thinking right now. Most meetings could improve with about five bullet points on the back of an envelope. Bonus points for typing it up, printing copies, and sending it to participants ahead of time. Anything would be an improvement over nothing!
Once the meeting starts, the key to life: follow the agenda! Stick to it, keep it on track, and when discussion strays, bring it back to the agenda or suggest adding unrelated items to future agendas.
Finally, when preparing the agenda, the meeting leader should take an extra minute (yes that’s all) to ballpark how much time each item should take. Don’t be a hard and fast timekeeper, just a ballpark.
Facts and Data
Second, make sure facts and data drive discussion. So many meetings devolve into stories, history, anecdotes, and one or two people dominate simply because the meeting is not driven by data and facts. If you have spreadsheets, reports, numbers, or similar things that help support or drive a desired discussion, bring them to the meeting or distribute them ahead, and let those drive discussion. Without question, I can assure you this will cut down on digressions exponentially. If you still find people going on tangents, gently bring the focus back to what the data in front of everyone actually says.
Finally, the meeting leader should be attentive to the discussion. They keep the meeting running on time and efficiently. When the discussion begins to repeat previous points or become redundant, it’s time for the meeting leader to summarize the discussion, confirm agreement, take a vote, and move to the next agenda item. Again, always listen for redundant and repetitive (pun intended) discussion…works every time to wrap it up.
Three simple ways to get exponentially more effective meetings: have an agenda and stick to it, let facts and data drive discussion, and summarize and vote when the discussion becomes redundant.
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