By Randy Snyder
We have all experienced good, productive meetings as well as superfluous unwieldy meetings with lack of decorum in our lifetime. My experiences with meetings are too many to mention over a 50 year span in many capacities with diverse audiences. As the chair of many meetings in different positions, business and otherwise, I exercised a tenet I always asked myself regarding meeting formats and scheduled meetings that should be applied is as follows: The worse reason for formatting a meeting or scheduling a meeting a certain way and date is “we do it that way because that is how we always did it!” Many times it is more practical to simply inform, depending on your audience via e mail blasts or a mailed outline of current happenings. I offer things to remember as it relates to chairs, presenters and attendees and putting the ‘essentials’ back into meetings.
Most important to a successful outcome is to determine the purpose for the meeting and creating an agenda that will lead to that success, one agenda item at a time. Holding meetings simply because they are a ‘regular’ and ‘scheduled’ meeting is not always a good reason to hold a meeting for all involved.
- Informing constituency of decisions and announcements
- Making decisions on policy
- General periodical review and update
- Gleaning input from attendees on strategic changes or nuances for consideration
With the preparation necessary for a good use of valuable time, I offer the following:
- Determine the purpose of the meeting and keep it top of mind.
- Ascertain who needed to accomplish the end result for corroboration and make sure they are available.
- Invite those parties as primary attendees and extend the invitation to others, secondarily, who may have an interest.
- Select the best date and time of day that will lend itself to attendees needed to accomplish the desired result.
- Select the proper venue to accomplish the aforementioned requirements.
- Send out the information taking the prior points in mind.
- Work on the agenda treating each point as a step that is needed to reach a favorable end result.
- Always start meetings on time and ideally end at stated time.
Agendas should be sent to desired audience in advance. I suggest at least seven days in advance keeping the following in mind:
- Distribute via the best medium to reach audience in mind.
- Keep agenda in outline form and in sequential order as needed to reach the end result.
- Include title, date, location, time in heading of agenda.
- Chair must stick to agenda points allowing time after presentation of agenda for recap of points by other presiding members.
- No answer is not an acceptable response to a question! Questions unable to be answered need to be addressed within 24 hours via phone, e-mail or one on one.
- Minutes of the meeting must be recorded, subsequently approved and then made available to all concerned. Good minutes eliminate the rhetoric and simply state decisions or future actions mentioned.
Items that lend themselves to putting the essentials in meetings include: mike availability for those with questions, configuration to allow access to podium or good visibility area for those with questions and plenty of seats with good audio for attendees. If needed, power point visuals should be prepared to reinforce point especially when supporting financials are concerned.
Attendees need to listen, chair people need to speak with authority and presenters need to be well prepared (with an eye towards simpatico). Follow-up on open items will only take place if those presiding take accurate minutes and attendees take notes on concerns and issues.
Last but not least, meetings should have a reasonable time expectation. Mutual attention and respect along with reaching closure on as many issues as possible accomplish the synergy needed to move forward positively.