you ever participated in a meeting that rambled aimlessly and strayed
from its agenda (if it even had an agenda), was boring, seemed to go on
forever, and produced few if any real results?
going to share some tips with you, so you can inject order and structure
into your meetings, get more done in less time, and most importantly Ė
produce real, tangible results.
youíre running the show, your job actually starts several days before
the meeting. Some of the things you need to do include:
that all invited participants know about the meeting and its purpose
that an agenda is prepared and if appropriate, circulate it to the
participants prior to the meeting
that your meeting room is available and set up the way you need it
If someone plans to make a presentation or give a report at your
meeting, find out how much time he or she needs. Do not show up at the
meeting only to be surprised when your speaker has a 45 minute slideshow
and you only planned on a 30 minute meeting. Remember that youíre not
a passive bystander. Youíre in charge of getting this meeting started
and ended on time. So, donít be afraid to ask a speaker to cut back on
the time they want. But give the presenter the courtesy of doing it well
in advance of the meeting.
to the meeting early. Check out the room, and make sure all your
materials are in place. Start on time.
out the agenda and use it to move through the meeting business. Be sure
someone is assigned the important task of taking minutes or keeping
any meeting would benefit from the use of Robertís Rules of Order,
also known as Parliamentary Procedure. To some people, this may sound
like something only necessary in a big-company boardroom. Not so.
you want to efficiently resolve business issues in a meeting, this is
the way to do it. If you donít believe me, try getting a bunch of
hard-headed people with differing opinions around a table and try to
reach consensus without some sort of tool like Robertís Rules.
beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on Robertís Rules
Iíll focus only on the best-known aspect of parliamentary procedure,
and that is making a motion and taking a vote. Here is a condensed
someone at the meeting wants to take some sort of action, that person
waits to be called on and says, ďI move, or I make a motion, that
...Ē and he or she goes on to describe the proposed action. The
chairperson may ask for clarification or may repeat the motion, and asks
for a second. A ďsecondĒ simply is an attempt to find out if anyone
else at the meeting supports this proposed action. If not, the motion
dies. If so, someone offers a second and then the chairperson asks if
there is any discussion. Participants take turns speaking one at a time
and airing their views pro or con. When all views have been heard, the
chair calls for a vote. The chair may cut off debate if it goes on too
long, by the way. The vote can be public or by written ballot, and is
final. No further debate on the topic.
you want more info on Robertís Rules, there are many excellent books
and websites on the subject.
are some things the person in charge should do during the meeting:
on topic. If a person starts to stray from the agenda, bring it back
side conversations. At any given time, the person speaking deserves
the undivided attention of all involved.
anyone from monopolizing the discussion.
in participants who arenít saying much. Ask for input and opinions
from each individual.
your time. Make mid-meeting adjustments if necessary.
you get through the meeting and itís about to end. You just adjourn
and leave, right? Wrong! I strongly recommend that if any important
decisions were made that call for follow-up action by folks at the
meeting, you recap. Restate those actions and get a quick confirmation
that these folks understand that they are accountable and have a
timeframe for action.
example: ďHere are the commitments from todayís meeting. Jack will
write his report by next Friday, and Steve will visit our top 3 accounts
by the end of the month. Right, Jack and Steve?Ē Getting people to
acknowledge accountability in front of others is a powerful way to get
them to actually keep their commitments.
urge you to establish specific follow-up actions and timeframes. If Mary
says, ďI will work on the marketing planĒ, what does that mean? Can
you hang your hat on that? A much better commitment might be: ďI will
get the marketing plan first draft written and submitted for review by
line: If the follow-up action isnít deliverable, if it isnít
measurable, if it isnít specific Ė you donít really have a
commitment. Insist on specific actions by specific people by a specific
date, and you will see results.
know Iím putting a great deal of emphasis on accountability. Hereís
why: Everyoneís busy, with lots of irons in the fire, both at work and
in their personal lives. Many people have good intentions, and are great
at making promises but not so good at follow-through.
may be in charge of the meeting, but perhaps not in charge of the folks
making these commitments. At work, they may be your peers. In a club or
volunteer organization setting, you have no control over them.
people know others are watching, and others are counting on them,
theyíll follow through. Someoneís word is a powerful thing. So is
peer pressure. In most cases, these may be the only leverage you have to
I like after-meeting emails to all participants to summarize the outcome
and once again reconfirm the personal accountabilities and timeframes
that were assigned.
the most important thing to remember is something I didnít say
directly but Iím sure you picked up on it: The person in charge has to
be assertive. Not aggressive. Not a bully. Assertive. Without a
take-charge person at the helm, most meetings simply will not work.
you follow these simple guidelines, your meetings will produce better
results in less time. I guarantee it.
Bill Collier is
a St. Louis-based business coach, consultant and speaker. He is the
author of the book ďHow to
Succeed as a Small Business Owner Ö and Still Have a Life.Ē His
website is www.collierbiz.com,
and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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