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Thursday, January 06, 2011

I love meetings!

When's the last time you heard someone say they love meetings? Probably never. And if your typical meeting ends with, "Let's get back to work!" why would you?

I really do love meetings. I love the collaboration, head-butting, emotion, laughter, interaction, and growth that comes through meetings. Maybe that's more typical of a small company but that's generally my experience.

However, the key to those meetings going well is that they're well-run. People hate meetings because they're poorly run. They end them with, "Let's get back to work!" because they feel that no work is accomplished in the meeting.

There are a few key factors that I've found contribute to a quality meeting.
  1. It starts on time. This is absolutely critical! I have a client who starts almost every meeting 20 minutes late. He's rarely prepared. For our last meeting nobody had the link for the web conference we were supposed to join until between 10 and 20 minutes into the meeting. By the time the meeting got started 25 minutes late, 2 people who were needed on the call had to leave for another meeting and weren't able to participate. When the meeting host apologizes for the late start and you don't feel like you can honestly say, "It's okay," there's a problem.
  2. It has an agenda. This doesn't need to be an itemized, bullet point list. It just needs to have a purpose. If it's a presentation, it will have a flow. If it's a weekly department meeting, it has a structured format. I had a call a few weeks ago where the client called me 10 minutes before the meeting started to go through the topic of the call, which I'd been working to get from him for a few days. Needless to say, the call was run pretty haphazardly.
  3. Someone keeps the meeting on task. The more people that get into a meeting the more potential there is for tangents. Tangents can be good for a minute or two, but someone has to reign everyone in.
  4. Limit the meeting to people that need to be on it. I can't count the number of calls I've sat in on where I spent the whole hour with my line muted, responding to emails. Don't invite people to a meeting "just in case we need them." If you need them, call them after the meeting is over.
I could go on, but these are my top 4. If these 4 things are followed, meetings tend to be pretty productive. I often see meetings where a week's worth of emails back and forth are saved by a simple discussion with everyone in the same room.

What would you add to the list? Do you have any fun experiences with meetings gone bad?

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Anonymous Maggie declared,

I almost cried when I read this...what is this thing called "starting on time"?? I totally agree with you, those are the steps to a successful meeting.

1/06/2011 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

Check this out!! :) :) :)

This is just an overall great website making fun of those motivational posters.


1/06/2011 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Bill Roehl declared,

I was in a couple of meetings where the host had a stopwatch and watch keeping to the agenda schedule. It was quite uncomfortable. So while it's nice to have an agenda and be on schedule, believe it or not there is too much order too.

1/06/2011 8:58 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

I agree Bill, like I said, tangents aren't a bad thing, only when they drag on and become a distraction.

Dstew, I love that site!

1/06/2011 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Heather declared,

I actually love PRODUCTIVE meetings too. Especially as a project manager, I need those meetings to get answers and move things along in projects. Half the time after meetings are over, I say wow that was productive... others usually just look at me funny... I have just been in too many unproductive meetings.

My challenge though is when I have meetings with much higher management and they are all about brainstorming over and over and don't really ever get to planning next steps. I do my best to help them but it's a delicate balance in doing so when you are working with the company's medical directors. I usually want to follow their lead since I'm only the project manager.

1/06/2011 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Blada declared,

This reminded me that I always wished that Neil McAllister would publish the continuing saga of Action Item-Professional SuperHero. For a laugh click here:

1/07/2011 11:30 PM  

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