Effective Meeting Management


This invaluable tool helps managers with effective meeting management. It describes the five types of meetings, how to put together an effective agenda, and the roles of the meeting leader.

Introduction

Most people would rather not meet for lengthy periods. They prefer that communication somehow occur without sitting down to talk. But the reality is, meetings need to occur because they add value to the organization. How do they add value? Primarily in five ways:

  • By advancing goals and objectives (e.g. deciding on a new service or product);
  • By improving capacity (e.g. improving coordination between departments, clarifying roles and responsibilities);
  • By building internal intelligence (e.g. learning what customers think about your products);
  • By building teamwork and trust (e.g. building confidence that team members can rely upon one another);
  • By resolving issues (e.g. addressing opportunities, challenges).

Meeting Purpose

The success of a meeting hinges on having a well-defined purpose and outcome in mind. Here are some examples:

  • To evaluate our performance in meeting our customer service goals
  • To review our quarterly financial performance
  • To review the latest market trends and their impact on sales and marketing
  • To get progress reports on new product development
  • To prioritize new product initiatives

Types of Meetings

The best meetings focus on single outcomes and activities. Unfortunately, many people try to cram too many activities into a single meeting. For example, a meeting to discuss a new marketing opportunity might drift into a brainstorming meeting about the need for a new marketing database. But the people and information needed for the database discussion are not present at the meeting, so time is wasted.

Meetings fall into the following five categories:

  1. Information sharing: Exchange information.
  2. Problem solving: Make decisions about how to solve a specific problem.
  3. Brainstorming: Define objectives, generate ideas and decide next steps.
  4. Performance review: Review individual and group performance. Decide areas of strength and areas of improvement.
  5. Strategic planning: Wrestle with large issues cutting to the heart of the organization’s future. Decide goals, objectives, strategies, action steps, timetables, and responsibilities.

If a meeting is purely for information sharing, the meeting leader should consider whether the meeting is necessary. There may be other reasons to hold the meeting – such as building teamwork or expanding capacity. However, the meeting leader might find that the information could be better distributed via email.

Bottom line: The more targeted the meeting, the better it will be. The meeting leader should limit the meeting to its stated purpose. Call a separate meeting when a new need arises.

The Leader’s Role

Two people have key roles in creating a successful meeting: the leader and the coordinator. Sometimes the same person holds both roles.

The leader’s role is to:

  • Decide the purpose of the meeting
  • Determine the agenda
  • Define what advance information is needed
  • Convene the meeting on time
  • Make sure everyone is clear on the agenda and decision items
  • Invite dissenting points of view
  • Push the group toward action or closure
  • Ensure the group decides how to share information from the meeting

The coordinator’s role is to:

  • Arrange for the meeting
  • Distribute the agenda
  • Monitor the clock
  • Keep the minutes (if needed)
  • Ensure that minutes are distributed promptly

The leader also may need to appoint a “pot stirrer” for the meeting – someone to provide a dissenting point of view. Not all meetings need a pot stirrer. However, when major issues or problems are on the agenda, the team will benefit from listening to two or more opposing points of view.

Agendas

The meeting leader has the responsibility for maximizing the value of meeting time. A key element is an agenda, prepared and distributed before the meeting starts. Agendas force the meeting leader to consider how to best use the meeting time.

Sample Agenda:

  • Welcome, review purpose of meeting and ground rules; 5 minutes
  • Strategic performance review; 45 minutes
  • Trends affecting strategic plan priorities; 45 minutes
  • Discussion of potential changes to plan; 30 minutes
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Budget review; 15 minutes
  • Trends affecting budget; 30 minutes
  • Discussion of potential budget changes; 30 minutes
  • Communication of results, action steps; 15 minutes
  • Evaluation of meeting; 10 minutes

Decision Items

We like to encourage meeting leaders to list the decisions or actions they expect will come out of the meeting. By focusing on decisions, the meeting leader can get a good grasp of how much value he or she expects the meeting to generate. It also forces the meeting leader to think about what materials are needed – and who else may need to participate.

Here is the same agenda with four decision items listed:

Sample Agenda:

  • Welcome, review purpose of meeting and ground rules; 5 minutes
  • Strategic performance review; 45 minutes
  • Trends affecting strategic plan priorities; 45 minutes
  • Discussion of potential changes to plan; 30 minutes- Decision: What changes in plan are required to sharpen our strategic focus?
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Budget review; 15 minutes
  • Trends affecting budget; 30 minutes
  • Discussion of potential budget changes; 30 minutes- Decision: What budget changes are required to align our resources with our priorities?
  • Communication of results, action steps; 15 minutes
  • Evaluation of meeting; 10 minutes

The Meeting Checklist

A useful tool for designing effective meetings is a checklist to guide the meeting leader in planning the meeting. Here is an example:

Note: If you want more information, check out these two additional tools in the Leadership ToolBox that are extremely useful in managing meetings effectively:

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