13 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Conducting or Attending Meetings
Meetings are time wasters unless you know what you are doing. Discussions among those who attend can run for hours, without really effectively addressing the very reason for the meeting in the first place.
How can meetings be conducted in such a way that maximum benefit is derived from it? Poorly planned or poorly managed meetings can waste a lot of time, not only of the one who calls for it but also those who attend.
Here are some sensible questions to ask yourself and tips on how to go about meetings before conducting or attending them.
For Those Who Call the Meeting or the Bosses
1. Do you really need to call the meeting?
Is there really a need for you to call the meeting? Chances are, there are many instances you can make the decision yourself without involving others. Or you may just have to call some concerned people or hold a tele-conference. In the information age, using technologies that do not require physical presence can save a lot on commute time and transportation costs.
2. Do you write specifically the agenda for the meeting?
Some people do not provide an agenda for the meeting. And if they do, there are just too many agenda to tackle. Two or three clear agenda for a two-hour meeting would do and keep participants at their optimum energy to discuss.
3. Do you start and end the meeting on time?
Almost always, meetings are ridden with this great time waster. Those who call the meetings sometimes are the ones who come late. If ever the meeting is started on time, it seems the discussion has no end in sight. Stick to the agenda and end the meeting on prescribed time or even earlier if the issues discussed have been resolved. End it with clear statements like "Meeting adjourned", "Thank you everyone for coming", "Have a good day", etc.
4. Are there problems to be resolved in the meeting?
If people are invited to "talk or discuss" about business matters, in effect you are asking them to come and chat. Be specific on what you intend the meeting to achieve. Is it to cut on production costs of a certain product or come up with ways on how to save electricity?
5. Do you moderate your meetings?
During discussions, the presider sometimes do most of the talking himself. If you are the one conducting the meeting, there should be a clear understanding of your role as moderator and/or decision maker. While others present their ideas, these must not be questioned but listed down and taken for consideration by the group. In the first place, why did you call the meeting? Is it not because you want to hear other's ideas? Stopping people midway (unless those ideas are really obviously irrelevant) from sharing their ideas right when they start to share them will discourage participation. You may assign somebody to serve as moderator during the discussion.
6. Do you ensure that you have a common understanding of what you are discussing?
A common understanding of the issues discussed at hand must be ensured. A visible picture of say, a product line, or a clear definition of terms used during the meeting must be provided. Never use acronyms in notices of meetings, unless everybody is familiar with those acronyms. Besides, who can recall what that acronym stands for after some time has elapsed, say a year?
7. Is the meeting scheduled at least several days before it is called?
Calling emergency meetings may be needed once in a while. But if you call many meetings this way most of the time, it may be exasperating for some who have time schedules and appointments to get by. People are not also ready to respond their best in unscheduled, verbally issued notices of meetings. Invite the people in writing specifying what you hope to decide and make sure they receive it.
8. Do you ensure that everybody understood their tasks and confirmed what you have agreed on after the meeting?
Sending a memo to the participants confirming what was decided during the meeting, who are responsible and the specific schedules for tasks to be accomplished will clinch the assignment and establish responsibility. This will also serve as indication of accomplishment.
For Those Who Attend Meetings
1. Do you let the meeting proceed even if you know people are discussing out of topic?
You can always do something about people who discuss out of topic. Volunteering yourself to write down the minutes of the meeting will do the trick. This gives you are reason to interrupt and ask something like "Excuse me, but I'd like to make sure I have written my notes right. Have we reached a decision about what we are talking about?".
2. Do you come on time?
Being on time during the meeting will save not only your time but others who may have come earlier than you. Every minute wasted is multiplied by the people in attendance. Some other important things may have been accomplished instead of waiting and wondering if the meeting pushes through or not.
3. Do you just sit there while waiting for others to come?
Since you cannot start the meeting yourself because you are a participant, it pays to bring in some paper to write down "things to do" for the day. Or you can erase your old messages in your cellphone. Be creative.
4. Did you prepare your assigned task for presentation during the meeting?
A thoroughly prepared task can save time during meetings. If you are presenting a new idea, remember the 5Ws and one H: What, When, Where, Why, Who, and How.
5. Do you just keep quiet when somebody talks too much and dominate the meeting?
Assert yourself once in a while especially if someone talks too much rubbish and out of topic. In any meeting, the 80-20 rule normally occurs. This is the so-called Pareto Principle. The principle asserts that 20 percent of something are always responsible for 80 percent of the results. Be part of the 20 percent. Share your bright ideas and make the quality of the outcome better. A live dog is better than a dead lion.
You can also suggest that the meeting be held at 11:30 or 4:30 in order to keep the "very intelligent" and talkative ones from getting carried away.
It will be much more satisfying for people if they recognize the above questions in conducting and attending meetings. When they do so, appropriate actions can be taken to avoid the pitfalls associated with poorly planned or poorly managed meetings. This will lead to higher productivity in the work place. Using these tips will help you get out of the rut.
Bliss, E. C., 1976. Getting things done. New York: Bantam Books. 198 pp.