Top Ten Tips for Efficient and Effective Meetings

Top 10 Tips

Top 10 Tips

A meeting is more like a racing yacht than a cruise ship.  Every crew member has a critical part to play, and there are no passengers

Do you find yourself spending a lot of time in meetings?  Do you want to make all your meetings tight, timely and cost effective?  If the answer to either of these is ‘yes’, then follow the tips below!

1.    Get together a useful agenda

  • State the start and finish time of the meeting
  • Write a sentence for each item stating the intended outcome of the discussion, e.g. Cost of Sales: following Nick’s presentation of the third quarter’s figures, we will agree plans and actions to reduce cost of sales by 5% in Q4
  • Allocate and publish timeslot for each agenda item
  • Avoid churning out a “standard” agenda, and ban “a.o.b.”
  • Issue the agenda (if you are not the chair, ask for it) 3-5 days before the meeting, along with any other documents you want people to study in advance

2.    As an attendee, clarify your purpose in being at the meeting

  • What will you gain/learn by being there?
  • How will you use/apply this information?
  • What will you contribute to the meeting?
  • How will you ensure you support the meeting in achieving each of its intended outcomes? (see 1. above)

3.    Do your preparation

  • Study the agenda
  • Read any accompanying documents
  • Prepare your contributions and questions

4.    Arrive on time or shortly before  

  • Expect others to do the same
  • Start on time

5.    Switch off your phone and put it out of sight

  • Even discreet receiving of messages (and especially sending of messages) diverts your attention from the business of the meeting, and is distracting/discourteous to others

6.    At the start of each agenda item:

  • Clarify the goal (intended outcome) of the discussion
  • Clarify the time slot
  • At the end of the allocated time, what will the meeting have, specifically?  (A specific agreement?  A specific decision?  A specific action plan? etc.)

7.    Manage the content of the meeting

  • Stick to the subject and keep to schedule.  (If you are not the Chair, you should be helping whoever is)

8.    Manage contributions and personal interactions

  • If you are not the Chair, you should be helping whoever is to manage interactions effectively
  • Ensure contributions (especially yours) are constructive
  • Ensure interactions are courteous and mutually respectful of other participants

9.    At the end of each item, agree/allocate/accept relevant specific actions

  • Ensure everyone is clear what will happen now (as a result of the discussion), who will do it, what the “deliverables” are, by when

10.    Allow adequate time before the end of the meeting to summarise

  • Summarise and finally agree all actions
  • 10 minutes summary time out of each 60 minutes of meeting time is a good rule of thumb (so you’d need to allow the last 30 minutes at the end of a 3 hour meeting)
  • Ensure each person accepting an action is fully in agreement with taking it on (if not, the action just won’t happen, and the next meeting will end up as a debate of reasons why)
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