Managing Meetings

 

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One click and lo and behold, it is there. Staring right back at you from that
torrid electric white.
Memo: Another Meeting
Groan. Right?
What a deceptively complex concept – The Meeting!
Affectionately known amongst its battered as ‘the death of a thousand cuts’.
So dreaded. So despised.
It’s no secret in professional spheres that the meeting suffers from an ugly dictatorial image. Often, it is regarded as an excuse to rag on subordinates to instill fear or respect.
Notwithstanding the obvious unpopularity, the meeting is an imperative tool for any group, professional or educational, that plans to strategize. In spite of the meeting being a frequent integral device of any hopeful organization, why is it that white-collared people find a well-run meeting so rare an occurrence?
An effectively managed meeting is said to have structure and order. The meeting is successful if the meeting’s objective is achieved, it gets wrapped up in the minimum amount of time, and leaves the participants convinced as to the sensibility of the whole process.
The one thing a good meeting and a bad meeting share is the suspense. A meeting
keeps you speculating which it will end up being.
Don Jacobson recorded Six Golden rules of Meeting Management.
You can adopt these guidelines to ensure more productive and less frustrating meeting-related encounters. A precondition is mentioned that all participants must be vested in the outcome of the meeting.

  • Run your meetings as you would have others run the meetings that you
    attend
    You prefer everyone else to maintain an air of professionalism. Same as everyone else expects it of you. Being considerate of others’ time and acknowledging their opinions is crucial to the plot.
  • Be prepared and ensure that all the participants can be as well
    Pre-communication must not be taken lightly. Sometimes the meeting organizer is not well familiarized with their responsibility of informing what needs to be informed.
    All attendees must be given ample access to the agenda; at least a day before, so
    that any advance reading or preparation can be aptly dealt with.
    Before the meeting begins, the meeting organizer should debrief to make sure the attendees know why they are there and what it is they hope to achieve.
    The participants must take on the responsibility of reviewing the agenda.
    If no agenda exists, there simply exists no need for a meeting.
  • Stick to a schedule
    As a thumb rule, the meeting must start and end at predefined times.
    The all too restless feeling associated with waiting for a meeting to begin is only paralleled by the emotion of waiting for it to finish. When trapped in a ‘neverending meeting’, who hasn’t mentally itched to add fresh cartridges to their imaginary pistols?
    Each individual present is excruciatingly aware of every passing second that the
    wall-clock sluggishly ticks off. An attempt should be made to cut down on polite chitchat and avoid rambling. Brevity requires discipline. Both Punctuality and Discipline stem from the respect one has for a task at hand.
    In the off-chance that the meeting review finishes before time allotted, it can be
    dismissed early. This provides the participants with extra time to tackle the
    elected tasks.
  • Stay on topic
    Each participant should focus to guide the discussion while maintaining
    relevance to the substantive agenda items.
    Please note that though we are asked to refrain from storytelling to prevent the derailing of the discussion, not all storytelling can be discounted as a
    mentoring tool. When the creative art is applied to meeting management, the story does not take ‘a life of its own’ but instead depicts the deliberated topic in a new light and recommends action plainly.
  • Don’t hold unnecessary meetings
    A meeting should not be held just because you have an empty hour to kill.
    Careful assessment must be carried out to ensure a need actually exists. Also, the frequency of routine meetings should be mutually decided.
    The purpose can be anything from a profit-loss accounting to a crossdepartment co-op project. Staff meetings, the most common of meetings, prove valuable for providing accountability, building camaraderie and communication.
    As to, which meeting should be held when?
    The answer lies within the question. Time is a resource that gives best bounty
    when composed.
  • Wrap up meetings with a clear statement of the next steps and who is to
    take them
    Whatever the outcome of the meeting, it needs to be documented clearly for those present. No doubts should be left about what needs to be done next and who is going to do what.
    It requires discipline and preparation to properly implement these recommendations and it is hardly ever easy. But these rules make a sea of a difference between a productive meeting and an unproductive meeting.
    Whether the meeting sinks or swims depends largely on how defined the destination is, how coordinated the crew is, and how well the hull wrestles hurdles.
    Like any ship, what any meeting really needs is a good captain. Meeting leadership must be steady, strong and fair. Imagine how beneficial it would be for a career once a reputation for running successful meetings is accomplished!
    Here is what the experts recommend.
    The key components of a meeting are
    Purpose,
    Agenda,
    Timeframe
    These three are used to perform the Meeting Management PAT Test.
    Purpose = decision/ routine status reports / generation of ideas/ communication/ plans
    The participants should be in consensus as to what a good outcome would be.
    The purpose of the meeting ought not be defined in more than a line or two. The memo itself should state the purpose. Only when everyone is aware of it, will they be more likely to offer viable solutions.
    Moreover, the knowledge beforehand will invoke involvement and interest.
    A little trick to help you determine what your meeting objective should be is to
    complete the following sentence,
    At the close of the meeting, the group has to…
    For example, the objective can be
    “At the close of the meeting, the group has to… plan the marketing strategy for the new launch campaign.” Or “At the close of the meeting, the group has to… review the company’s new policy for handling returns.”
    An Agenda lists the items that are going to be inspected during the meeting.
    The agenda sets the tempo of a meeting. It should not exceed 6-8 items ideally.
    Points to consider while designing the agenda are
    • Date, Time and Venue
    • Invested Participants
    • Priorities of Discussion
    • Sequence of Discussion
    • Item-wise Time Duration
    • Desired Results of Meeting
    The agenda-writer is required to streamline the meeting objective with everything that happens in the meeting. The goal should be to further that objective with each itemized discussion. If it is redundant, it’s best left unentertained.
    Before the meeting, the written agenda is shared with all concerned to inform
    and get useful feedback.
    There can be no settlement of a great cause without discussion, and people will not discuss a cause until their attention is drawn to it. – William Jennings Bryan
    Timeframe is very important to adhere to in any meeting, especially the start and the end. There is little point in waiting for (or even recapping for) stragglers as it wastes the collective time of the group.
    It is advisable to set duration for each item in the agenda which doesn’t exceed the total allotted time.
    Whatever you do, don’t forget your MOM!
    MOM= Minutes Of the Meeting
    The minutes offer a re-cap of the meeting and a reminder to undertake discussed action.
    The note-taker who takes down the minutes of a meeting may or may not be the meeting organizer. The agenda is used by the note-taker as a guideline for recording purposes.
    Other information that must be transcribed comprises of who attended, what was discussed, which the action items are, the respective responsibilities and the way forward.
    Post-Meeting, the MOM should be circulated to everyone connected to the agenda As Soon As Possible (ASAP), usually within 24 hours, via a reliable e-mail network.
    A few Tips have been jotted down to provide you with leverage to control events and allow you to make the most of your meetings:
    • Schedule meetings on reasonably convenient times to maintain morale with the exception for emergencies.
    • Note down the names of attendees. Discuss the agenda in detail at the beginning of the meeting and summarize it, clearly stating responsibility of the individual tasks.
    • Although a meeting is a formal setting, maintaining a healthy dose of humor and perspective will generate a relaxed yet more fruitful environment.
    • Hear out all the viewpoints fairly regardless of your personal opinions.
    • Nod approvingly to encourage more input from attendees and set a comfortable tone.
    • Present the chance to speak at least once to everyone and express your own views at the appropriate time.
    • If someone is dominating the conversation, direct a question to or ask the opinion of someone who has either been holding back or been trying in vain to voice their opinion.
    • Prevent the discussion from disintegrating or straying off the topic by pre-assigning the topic-keeping responsibility to a volunteer.
    • Thomas J. Shepstone in his illuminating article ‘Meeting Management – Someone’s Got to Do it’ recommends a clock be put somewhere where you can see it easily but have to turn your head a little to do so. This is done so that everyone there remains aware of the passing time at a subconscious level.
    • At the off chance that you are inattentive and suddenly come to realize that you are falling short of time, you can consider hurrying the discussion. However, if the item is issue-ridden or pertaining to only a few attending, it is prudent to defer the discussion until another time and assign it for a detailed discussion under the supervision of a subcommittee.
    • Get confirmation from the participants on the Debrief (who is assigned to do what, and by when).
    • Send minutes of the meeting and make it a point to follow-up for better co-ordination. These pointers will prove valuable when applied suitably. If the intention is
    victory, any meeting can be creatively managed to reach a preferred outcome. For this reason, Innovation is habitually an analogous endeavor of a Meeting Manager used to fully realize the potential efficacy of Meeting Management.
    Dear reader, you now own the knowledge. You know the makings of a wellrun meeting. You possess the means to manage your meetings better.
    Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether
    you’re ready or not, to put this plan into action. – Napolean Hill
    May all your meetings see triumph!

Contributed by Ankita Verma ( Class of 2009, IBS HYDERABAD )

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