Wednesday, 29 June 2016

How to Manage a Meeting

Managing a meeting is a very important skills.

Meetings can either be a huge drain on time and resources or a huge benefit to both those involved and the organization as a whole. If you are reluctant to attend regular scheduled meetings, or feel they are a waste of time the meeting is likely not being run effectively.

How effective a meeting is can depend upon who, and how the meeting is managed. The benefits of a well run meeting can be priceless, whether it be a short 10 min meeting or a  multi day summit, you want people to walk away from a meeting with the feeling of accomplishment and a sense of time spent.

If you are the organizer of a meeting, you are basically demanding an investment of time and knowledge from your participants, whether they are from within your organization or outside your organization there is a significant investment in cost and resources associated with holding a meeting. 
The time spent during this gathering can be an invaluable investment that will have a positive impact on your project.

I’ve attended many meetings… meetings dealing with complex issues that have brought together people from around the world with considerable investment in time and money. I’ve been fortunate to observe a number of very well organised people who are able to run a well thought out, successful meeting.

Taya Photography

Here is an amalgamation of tips and notes I’ve gathered from observing how successful meetings is organized.

Why: Firstly why are you having a meeting, is it absolutely necessary?
Consider the return on investment and what alternate options do you have to deal with the issues. If the meeting is just to inform take a look at other mediums that can be use to share the information, such as email, posting on a project forum, chat room or website. There are a number of great online platforms that allow for collaboration and sharing of documents and information where multiple people can add their thoughts and comments at their convenience.

Who: Who needs to attend?
Consider each individual's involvement on the issues and their ability to address or participate in finding solutions. Only involve those who are able to provide solutions, select people who have the ability to communicate effectively, avoid inviting people who are typically reluctant to contribute or who are dogmatic in their opinion, you want to create an environment of collaboration and solutions. 

Agenda: Have a well organised agenda that covers the topics needed to be discussed during the meeting. This means doing some preparation, find out prior to the meeting what the issues are which will define your objectives. From this you will be in a better position to invite the right people to the meeting in an effort to find the best possible solutions.

Stick to the agenda… but, don’t be afraid to veer off track to address issues that may arise. A good way to manage any "side" issues that come up  is to place them in a “cage” which can be addressed later allowing you to get back on the immediate topic. A “cage” is an area on a whiteboard or flip chart where you can list topics that need to be addressed at the end of a meeting. Before the end of a meeting these “caged” items should be assigned to an individual who can briefly give a 10 minute summary addressing exactly what the issue is and what possible solutions may be available, if no solutions are available this then becomes a action item delegating responsibility.

Meeting Summary: After the meeting, go over the objectives and outcome of the meeting, recognise people’s contributions and their participation. Summarize the challenges, solutions, plans and resolutions that have been addressed and those that require additional attention. Keep it simple, concise and brief. (something I find challenging...)

Action Items: Delegate responsibility of items that need to be addressed resulting from the meeting. You may have run a productive meeting but if there are no action items resulting from the meeting issues may not get resolved outside of the board room. Assign action items to those who are best suited to deal with the item as action items will hold people accountable.
                                
Hope these tips help you manage your next meeting. Whether it's between two people or twenty, I have found these tips invaluable in holding a productive meeting.

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