You’ve just run a great meeting, or at least you thought it was great. You stuck to the agenda and got through all the items on it. You reached consensus on action items, and have assigned responsibility with acknowledgement for each one. You are confident that everyone is leaving with clear direction and new enthusiasm. What could be better?
Ending on Time: I’ve never been much of a fan of inviolable time limits on meetings. If you are being productive and discussing substantive issues, it should take as long as it takes. None the less, people have other things on their schedules. If a meeting goes over the time limit, make sure to discuss it with the group before adjourning. Did we go off topic? Was this a one-time event or should we be scheduling a longer time slot in the future?
Assign Parking Lot items. Things that are put aside during a meeting should be worth discussing, just not at this gathering. What is going to happen with them? Subgroup or follow up gatherings should be scheduled before adjourning. “I’ll get with you later on that” too often turns up at the next meeting as “We still need to discuss that, but we haven’t had a chance.”
Set a deadline for distributing minutes or notes. Action items should be distributed by a specific time, and the sooner the better. A meeting is for the purpose of determining actions, assigned responsibility and creating accountability. Sharing the results, especially with non-attendees, is part of the process. It helps prevent communication or activity based on what someone thinks he or she heard.
Evaluate the meeting. Reader Malcolm Webster says that the best meetings he’s attended had a once-around-the-table at the end to comment on the effectiveness of the gathering. The comments were included in the minutes.
Watch the “Meetings after the meeting.” Does one subgroup rush off to continue the discussion? That may be because they want to get started right away (increasing the importance of distributing written notes), but it also could be a sign that they haven’t completely bought into the decisions that were made.
Business meetings aren’t just a necessary evil. We are social mammals, and some behaviorists estimate that up to 85% of our in-person communication comes from facial and body expressions. The free exchange of ideas, done in a structured and supportive environment, is far more powerful than trading emails or memos.
Try putting all the techniques in the last five columns to work in your next meeting. I’d love to hear what the results are.
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