meeting well

As a professional meeting planner, I tend to look at myself as someone who plans big meetings, as opposed to the everyday, inter- (or intra-) departmental kind.  Yet, there’s no way I could plan the large-scale event without arranging, attending, and participating in many, many “little” meetings along the way.

Sometimes, those little meetings are painful, aren’t they?  You’re asked to sit in on a meeting that might not have much to do with you, or it has everything to do with you, but nothing gets accomplished.  They can feel like scheduled exercises in futility at times, can’t they?

Well, I am here to tell you that I have been guilty of being the scheduler of some futile time, and I won’t let you deny that you have, too.  To keep us from having to be guilty of it ever again, I’m going to share a great article with you and hope that we will both promise to take advantage of the excellent advice it offers.

The American Management Association’s October 2008 issue of their Performance and Profits newsletter contains an article on How to Plan Successful Meetings (the “little” ones), which was excerpted from the book Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There! by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff.  

The article presents 7 areas that you need to have under control as you plan your next meeting.

  1. Know Your Role: Decide before the meeting what role you intend to play, and how open you are to others’ input.  If you don’t, you could end up becoming a roadblock to productivity.
  2. Clarify the Purpose – for Yourself: Know why you’re meeting, and what the final outcome should be.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to lead the meeting where it needs to go.
  3. Assure that Participants are Equal to the Task: Make sure those with authority, expertise, information, resources, and need are invited and able to attend.  Without them, the meeting will be a waste of time.
  4. Use Subgroups to Differentiate and Integrate Views: A small enough meeting will automatically differentiate, as each individual will bring his own perspective.  In a larger group setting (school district meeting, for instance), subgroups are needed to ensure that all pertinent viewpoints are represented (parents, teachers, administrators and students).
  5. Have Each Group Report to the Whole: Whether it’s individuals or actual groups, each represented viewpoint needs to speak to the group as a whole, to present its perspective and allow others to respond.
  6. Allow Enough Time: Create a plan for the meeting itself, allowing time for each of the steps that will be needed to reach the goal you have set for the meeting (point 1 above).  Present this plan as the agenda for the meeting – before the meeting begins, so folks can prepare for it [I added this last part – the article doesn’t mention agendas].
  7. Choose Healthy Working Conditions: Select a room with a view if possible, with enough space for particpants to be comfortable, not cramped.  Remember that sound is important, too, and ensure that everyone will be able to hear everyone else.  Other considerations are having restrooms nearby, and sustainability (how to make the meeting greener).

The article contains quite a bit more information than the above summary.  I highly recommend you link over and give it a read!  If you have some extra time on your hands (ha, ha), you might want to pick up a copy of the book from which it was excerpted, too!  I intend to do so, but I’m not sure when I’ll read it!  Maybe during one of the scheduled exercises in futility that I’ll attend in the near future?  😉


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