Holding meetings that people look forward to

Okay, let’s take a vote.  How many of you reading this love to go to meetings?  How many of you would say that meetings compose some of the most productive part of your workday? (Just as I thought!)

Since it seems (to me and to many others as well) that meetings are, worst case scenario, a colossal waste of time and, best case scenario, okay but just not as productive as they could, or should, be…can we do anything to improve them?

I think the answer is a resounding “yes!” Not only could/should we, but we MUST as they take up so much of so many people’s time and creative energy.  There are books written on the subject of meetings and one of the best (my opinion) is Patrick Lencioni’s, “Death By Meeting”. Even the title tips us off that the concept of meetings is probably hard pressed to win any kind of popularity contest. (There is a BookNote at davekraft.org on this book.)

What I want to say here is by no means exhaustive, but just an effort to offer some suggestions that, if followed consistently, will exponentially improve the value of meetings to the place where people (believe it or not) can actually look forward to them.

So here we go:

1.  Determine the purpose of the meeting beforehand.

Why are we having this meeting? Is there a clear purpose and reason, or are we having it because we have always had it and have long since forgotten why we started having it?

2.  Set some goals for the meeting.

What is it specifically that we want to accomplish as a result of this meeting? How will we determine that our goals have been met? What gets identified or measured gets done.

3.  Get the right people in the room.

Everybody doesn’t need to be at every meeting. On the other hand, make sure that people who do need to be there are there, so you won’t have to meet again for the one or two who didn’t make the first one.

4.  People attending the meeting do their homework.

There needs to be agreement that if there are documents or positional papers to read to get ready for a meeting, everyone makes it a priority to be thoroughly prepared!

5.  Select the right location and conditions for the meeting.

Obviously, you don’t want to meet in a room where others are wandering in and out, or meet next to a room with lots of distracting noise. It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway.  Stay off the computers and cell phones…and no stepping in/out of the room to talk on the cell phone.  Can’t we just stay focused for 90 minutes or so without having ants in our pants or being chained to our electronic devices? Shut them off or power them down and take a break at a certain point for those who absolutely must  make or receive a call.

 6.  Prepare an agenda and stick to it.

No rabbit trails, please. No interesting, but often low priority discussions which are not the main things agreed on prior to the start of the meeting. Send the agenda out beforehand so people know where the meeting is headed and can get their minds warmed up and prepared before showing up. Most agendas are too packed, and meeting leaders overestimate what they can accomplish during a meeting. Be realistic and don’t have too many items.

7.  Have someone take good notes and send them out as soon as the meeting ends.

Have the best note taker in the group type up notes from the meeting in the body of an email ready to be sent out when the meeting ends. This person will divide the notes into three sections: Information, Discussion, Decisions. Some items on the agenda are simply to keep attendees informed about various things, but do not need to be discussed, per se. Other items would be things to discuss but not decided upon at today’s meeting. Then there would be a few items that will be decided today. It needs to be clear which category a meeting agenda item falls into so it is understood what the expressed purpose of that item is. At the end of the meeting the note taker reads the notes to make sure everything is accurate and then hits send.

8.  Be crystal clear on decisions that have been made at the meeting.

It needs to be clearly understood: What decision, if any, was made today? Who is taking responsibility for that decision? What exactly the responsible person intends to do in implementing the decision? What the agreed-upon timeframe for action is?

9.  When is the next meeting for this particular group of people?

I’ve come to several conclusions through years of ministry.  One of them is that the entire western world is slammed…busy beyond comprehension. It’s really bad out there. With that in mind, you would do well to have meetings planned out as far in advance as possible to avoid people having conflicts. Before you end one meeting, make sure everyone expected to attend the next meeting knows/has that date on their calendar.

There is a lot more that could be shared, but this is enough for now.  What essential things would you add to my list? Be great to hear from you.