An odd title you might say. How can any meeting be great? But they can if they achieve their purpose. The problem is that in most cases meetings don’t have a clear purpose and no one seems to know why items are on the agenda, what’s going to be discussed, or how long a meeting will last. Here is our coaching guide to running successful meetings.
If you are Chair of the meeting you may not personally do all the things on the list below, but you are accountable for making sure they are done by someone.
The seven golden rules for running effective meetings are:
- Purpose: there must be a clear purpose or set of purposes for any meeting. This will tend to dictate who attends, how often it takes place and what goes on the agenda. So it’s obvious what a meeting with the purpose of agreeing the company senior management succession plan will cover. Perhaps it’s a bit less obvious when someone says the meeting is a team meeting and that’s its purpose!
- Agenda: the purpose of the meeting should determine what kind of things get on the agenda. So a discussion of a proposal to spend £1m on an IT project would not appear on the agenda of a succession planning meeting. This sounds obvious but it seems the wrong items do appear on the wrong meeting agenda.
- Meeting Processes: agree on a regular basis with all participants the key meeting processes. This would include how to get things on the agenda, the level of detail required, how long before the meeting participants have to get things on the agenda etc
- Agenda Items: ensure that whoever requests that an item is put on the agenda gives you the purpose of putting it on the agenda and the amount of time the item might take. The purpose may be to seek views on a subject, or to get agreement on a proposal and so on. The reason for asking for the time allowed is that it enables you to control how long items take to cover.
- Late Papers: simply do not accept late items for the agenda. Once you have done this once you will find that everyone gets things in on time! This enables you to circulate the agenda and papers and ensure everyone has time to prepare for the meeting. I have been to meetings where someone has tried to agree a 30% budget cut with no prior notice – crazy!
- Stay to Time: if someone has said they need 15 minutes for an item and that’s what it says on the agenda – stop the discussion at 15 minutes. Again you will find once you have done this people are realistic about the time they need at a meeting. And meetings actually finish at the published time.
- Action Notes: start each meeting with a review of the progress against the actions agreed at the previous meeting. This ensures people do what they say they are going to do. Plus it gives attendees a sense of achievement.
I have heard all sorts of reasons why it’s not a good idea to do some of the things I have listed here. There are people that think doing these things will in some way constrain the debate and lead to a worse meeting. These tend to be people that run meetings where you have little idea why things are on the agenda and how long the meeting will last. The most effective meetings I have attend do all the things on the list. I don’t feel constrained in any way. I know what I can put on the agenda and I know I will have enough time to do what needs to be achieved. Plus I know what time the meeting will finish – just imagine!
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