Back to school for the children means back to work with a full team, for the adults. Everyone is back from their vacations and full teams are in attendance.
For many, that means back to meaningless meetings.
Are your team’s meetings a waste of time or an inspiring and cohesive collaborative venture?
The success of a meeting depends on the host and you. Yes, even as a participant you have a responsibility to make meetings meaningful.
Make your meetings matter by brushing up on your meeting manners.
Here is a refresher of host and participant guidelines plus solutions to sticky meeting situations, that will guarantee a positive, purposeful and productive participation by all.
1. If you do not have a purpose for the meeting, and you do not have expected products that should come out of that meeting, do not hold a meeting. Just because you hold a meeting every Wednesday morning, it doesn’t mean that you have to hold one. Let me assure you; everyone will roll their eyes when you start the meeting with “Does anyone have anything new to report?” or “Is there something anyone wants to discuss?”
2. Invite only those that need to be there and make sure that the decision makers are present.
3. Use your meeting’s purpose and its expected products; the deliverables, to plan your agenda. Use a meeting agenda template for all meetings. It will facilitate record keeping and referencing. It will also begin the implementation process to form a project action plan. Circulate the agenda a few days before to solicit feedback, and gain input.
4. Be realistic about your agenda and its timeline. Allow ample time for discussion, questions and answers. If it is necessary, give time limits to brainstorming and individual sharing of ideas.
Sticky situation: Participants do not stick with the agenda.
Solution(s): Park items that are not on the agenda and that need to be addressed later in a ‘Parking lot’ — the host or participant, writes the item on a sticky note and places it on the assigned flip chart, or writes it on a white board with a marker, for all to see. Make sure to review these at the end of the meeting and possibly assign tasks, give a timeline or include them in the next meeting’s agenda.
5. Announce your techno expectations before the meeting and at the start of the meeting including social media, phone, and laptop.
6. Add freshness to your meetings by changing locations and treats.
7. Start your meeting on time.
Sticky situation: Your team likes to socialize before a meeting.
Solution(s): Input that time in the agenda. — 8:50 to 9:00 — Muffins and Mingling
Sticky situation: Your team has difficulty starting on time.
Solution(s): Assign an off-hour start time. This should pick the curiosity of all participants, who will want to be there to verify this unusual start time. — 9:03 — Start meeting with agenda item #1
If you do not start your meetings on time, your attendees will assume it is acceptable for them to be late the next time you host a meeting. Once you start, do not stop for stragglers.
Sticky situation: You always have a few stragglers.
Solution(s): Play “Tardy note-taker.” The host ceremoniously passes on a tablet or pad of paper and pen, to the last person who walks to the door. Every other person that comes in thereafter gets the ceremonial pass of the note-taking material. As a bonus for you, you won’t have to answer, “What did I miss?” The note-taker can catch up on the status of the meeting, by reading the notes on the pad.
8. Facilitate the meeting by involving others on the agenda. Call on your in-room experts, by soliciting the feedback of the other attendees.
Sticky situation: Participants interrupt one another.
Solution(s): When brainstorming, use an hourglass or a talking stick — only the person holding it can speak.
9. Aim to finish your meeting 10 minutes early. Everyone will be thrilled with the extra time to freshen up, make a call or catch up on email. At the latest, end your meeting at the expected time.
Sticky situation: Your meetings extend past the assigned time.
Solution(s): Use a countdown clock and make it visible to all. Look at it when you transition from one point to the next. This practice will remind you and the participants to respect the time and the agenda.
10. Close the meeting by summarizing its products and next steps. Gather notes from the note-taker, review and confirm ‘who does what, and when’ in an action plan. Circulate to all stakeholders with 48 hours of the meeting.
1. When you receive a meeting invitation, confirm your attendance or inform your absence, as soon as possible. RSVPing, is not an option. If you cannot attend, explain the reason. A telephone call is usually best.
2. When going to the meeting, bring all necessary documents: status updates, suggestions, recommendations and a copy of the agenda with your notes. Print the meeting’s agenda with what and where you wish to contribute.
3. Bring note-taking material. I know that this seems elementary but believe me, it is not obvious to all. Too many times, I have had to rip a couple of pages from my notebook and search through my bag for an extra pen for someone.
4. If you roll in late, do not shake papers and do not rattle your chair. Settle in, listen and look to your agenda to pick up with the momentum. A quick “Excuse me” will do for now. After the meeting, you may privately apologize to the host and explain further.
5. Participate according to the agenda and your notes. If you do not have anything to say, do not waste time rephrasing what others have said. Acknowledge what others are saying with positive facial expressions and supportive comments.
6. Keep your body language professional. Do not sprawl on the desk and do not remove your shoes. Yes, I have witnessed this sight and that smell too. Not very pleasant and it made me wonder about the offenders…
7. Beware of relaxing fidgety movements like the clicking of your pen or the back and forth of your foot. Relaxing for you, annoying for everyone one else.
8. Mind your meeting manners; respect the techno expectations and be respectful of other’s ideas. If techno is allowed, don’t peek at email and don’t text. Everyone can tell. Do not interrupt and please do not have side conversations. Avoid the rolling of the eyes, sighs and finger pointing. Play nice and be fair.
9. If you expect a call or have to leave early, inform your host ahead of time. When the call comes, leave the room to take it. When leaving before the end of the meeting. Just get up and go, as quietly as possible.
10. Follow up on all assigned tasks and do what you said you would do, on time. That demonstrates integrity.
Running effective meetings is much more than sending out an invitation to gather around coffee and donuts to talk about our plan. Productive meetings require preparation, planning, positive and purposeful participation, post-meeting actions and performance analysis. More importantly, productive meetings do not waste precious time and resources.