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Handling effective meetings.

[check] This checklist is for all involved in planning and chairing meetings.


For this checklist, a meeting is defined as a face-to-face gathering of three or more individuals for a specific purpose at a specific time and place. Formal meetings, such as those covered here, are conducted by a chair, according to an agenda set in advance, and the proceedings may or may not be minuted. This checklist does not, however, deal with the legal requirements of company board meetings or annual general meetings. Much of the guidance mentioned here will also apply to electronic meetings, although there is no specific reference to them.

Advantages of meetings

Meetings vary enormously in purpose, number of attendees, style, duration and level of representation, for example, from heads of governments to members of staff within a small unit or branch. Outcomes may impact internationally, nationally or regionally, or may only affect the day-to-day internal operations of a small organisation.

Improved and cheaper technology is making remote video conferencing a real possibility for many organisations, with substantial savings in travelling time, reduced travel and subsistence costs, and lower travel-related stress.

The general principles for holding a successful and productive meeting, however, are valid for all types of meetings, whether traditional face-to-face or electronically linked.

Effective meetings can:</p> <pre> provide swift and productive communication between a number of people be a successful decision making instrument enhance the motivation and commitment of a team. </pre> <p>Disadvantages of meetings

Ineffective or unnecessary meetings can:</p> <pre> waste time and money exacerbate divisions and bad feeling produce poor decisions. </pre> <p>Action checklist

Before the meeting

1. Meetings may not always be necessary or efficient, particularly those which are held regularly. It is important to ensure that they are justified before committing the time, effort and other costs involved. Ask "Do I really need a meeting?" Consider what is the purpose of the meeting: to exchange information; to monitor progress on performance; to deal with specific problems; to brainstorm an issue; or to develop future plans.

2. Set clear, precise overall goals for the meeting.

3. Keep creative and analytical discussion separate. Creative meetings need a more relaxed timetable and atmosphere. It is hard to switch from the routine to the creative and vice versa.

4. Decide who should be present; neither too many nor too few, and only those who can make a contribution.

5. Choose the date, starting and finishing time, and place. Having a definite finish time helps concentration and may help to avoid time-consuming digressions. Make sure the date and time is suitable for all intended participants.

6. Set the agenda. For each item clarify the objective and who will lead the discussion. Construct a timetable so that important items do not get squeezed out and lesser items do not absorb a disproportionate amount of time.

7. Select the format of the meeting, bearing in mind considerations such as the nature of the topic(s) under discussion, the number of participants, the amount of time set aside and the goals you wish to achieve.

8. Make administrative arrangements, including: choosing and booking a suitable room ensuring that the necessary equipment and supplies will be available arranging catering requesting secretarial help, including translation services if necessary, particularly if minutes are to be taken. The minute-taker needs to be skilled at listening and taking notes.

9. Notify all those involved as early as possible. The notification should include: full details of date, time and place list of invitees the agenda any supporting papers.

10. Complete your personal research, reading and other preparation. This may include making advance contact with any participants whose contributions may be critical to the success of the meeting.

At the meeting the Chair/leader should

1. Arrive in good time.

2. Check that all the arrangements, including equipment, seating and refreshments, are in order.

3. Welcome the participants on arrival (especially VIPs and any newcomers).

4. Start promptly.

5. Deal with administrative items, such as: introductions of any newcomers, and expressions of congratulations, thanks, good wishes, condolences, or apologies received from absentees domestic arrangements, including message-taking, car parking, smoking, catering, breaks, and the expected finish time.

6. Despatch routine items quickly.

7. Introduce each agenda item, with an emphasis on the objectives.

8. Shape and control the discussion: encourage the shy restrain the verbose and opinionated allow only one discussion topic at a time separate different subjects balance contributions on contentious subjects keep control of time employ visual aids where they may help people to make their points don't express an opinion unless needed at the end summarise at intervals seek clear decisions at the appropriate point where there are differences of opinion on key issues, suggest a majority vote where appropriate agree date and time of any follow-up meeting thank everyone for their contributions.

9. Conclude firmly and tidily, emphasising action points agreed. After the meeting

1. If not already minuted or recorded, write down immediately the decisions taken, the tasks agreed with the persons responsible for action and the dates by which action should be achieved.

2. Distribute the note to all participants and to others as appropriate.

3. Monitor the progress of subsequent action.

Dos and don'ts for chairing effective meetings

Do</p> <pre> Consider other ways in which the objectives of a proposed meeting can be achieved. Prepare thoroughly--well in advance. Consider participants' comfort and convenience (including aspects such as smoking facilities, ventilation, acoustics and noise levels, and breaks). Use visual aids where useful. Focus on the objectives for each item. Ensure all contribute what they can to the discussion. Maintain good but not oppressive discipline.

Aim for consensus whenever possible. </pre> <p>Don't</p> <pre>

Take notes as you are also the leader and may also be a key contributor.

Lose your temper. Allow participants to get involved in purely personal disagreements. Talk too much or for too long. Insist on having the last word. Talk first, except to introduce a topic.

Let the meeting run on and on. </pre> <p>How to assess meeting effectiveness

As with other activities, assessment of effectiveness will depend on having set clear objectives in advance, for the whole meeting and for individual items. Common measures of effectiveness include asking:</p>

<pre> Did all present contribute positively, according to their roles? Was the discussion lively but good-tempered throughout?

Were all relevant aspects of the subjects properly explored? Was consensus reached on all major decisions? Did the meeting cover the subjects within the time allotted? Did all leave with clear knowledge of what had been achieved, and their responsibilities for future action? Were participants invited to complete a brief evaluation? This may help them to perceive their own weaknesses and do better next time. An example of an evaluation form follows. </pre> <pre> Evaluation form To what extent ...

Poor Good Were the objectives clear?

1 2 3 4 5 Was the meeting well-prepared? 1 2 3 4 5 Did it stick to the point? 1 2 3

4 5 Were vital matters covered? 1 2 3 4

5 Were clear decisions reached? 1 2 3 4 5 Was people's knowledge used? 1 2 3 4 5 Did people speak? 1 2 3 4 5 Did you feel involved?

1 2 3 4 5 Did you contribute?

1 2 3 4 5 Did the Chair control the meeting?

1 2 3 4 5 </pre> <p>Useful reading

How to save time and money by managing meetings effectively: 101 ways to make a difference, Andy Gilbert and Graham Field Leicester: Go Mad Books, 2003

Tolleys company meetings, Druces and Attlee ed Croydon: Butterworths Tolley, 2001

Thought starters

* Was the last meeting you called/attended really necessary?

* Do you always prepare for meetings, whether as Chair or participant, thoroughly and in advance?

* Who is the best meeting leader you have worked with? Why was he/she so effective?

* Who is the worst meeting leader you have worked with? Why was he/she so ineffective?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Checklist 002
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Next Article:Solving problems.

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