Effective meetings

Well-planned and effective meetings

Some companies and organisations manage to conduct their meetings with great success. Not only are these meetings spontaneous and pleasant, they are also brief and to the point. They lead to action and results. This saves time, travel and money and results in greater effectiveness.
The question is - how do they do it? Everyone has been to badly-planned meetings that have been a waste of time and source of irritation. Here are a few simple tips and ideas about how to prepare and conduct your meetings to create and maintain a positive meeting climate.

Rule number one: Take every meeting seriously! Prepare for the meeting by deciding its purpose. Invite those who can contribute to and gain something from the meeting. Use good-quality, easy-to-operate technical equipment. Take notes. Conclude by summarising what has been decided. Follow up by sending out an email with a summary of the meeting, preferably in point form, within 24 hours. If you do this, your organisation will be well on its way to building effective meeting practices. Also set general rules specifying what participants should not do at meetings (read emails, surf the Internet, write reports, chit-chat, drive a car, etc.).

Small, spontaneous meetings

Brief, spontaneous meetings with just a few participants are becoming more common. A personal conference phone on the desk allows three or four people in different locations to quickly settle many aspects of a project. A document may be distributed and discussed. A quick decision can be taken on how to proceed. But it's still essential to have a clear agenda even for a fairly simple meeting like this. Not to complicate matters, but to make the meeting simple, dynamic and effective.

Designate a person to take the minutes and send them out afterwards. Make sure that everyone is clear about what has been discussed and decided. Conclude by summarising and, almost most important of all, follow-up with a brief email to participants as soon as possible after the meeting. This allows any misunderstandings to be clarified and corrected immediately.

Larger meetings

Larger meetings obviously require rather more preparation. It is critical that everyone knows the purpose of the meeting. It is then more likely that those participating will be motivated and understand their roles. Send an agenda and relevant documents to the participants to give them adequate time to prepare. That way, they will be more active and engaged. Only those who really need to be at the meeting should be asked to attend and they should be briefed on what is expected of them. Follow the link at the end of this article to a checklist on effective meetings. Keep it handy for the next time you call and hold a meeting. There are also examples of how different companies and organisations use remote meetings as an efficient and effective way of working.*

Companies can save vast amounts of money by holding remote meetings more frequently rather than travelling all sorts of distances to attend different meetings. The findings of an American survey (verizonbusiness.com) show that the expense of travelling to a meeting is, on average, 12 times more than what it costs to attend a meeting remotely. On top of that is the time spent travelling. Carefully-planned and efficiently conducted remote meetings are a valuable resource and will quickly cut costs and increase company effectiveness.
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