Do you ever wonder what you, as a group, have accomplished in an unproductive business meeting? Have you seen other attendees rolling their eyes and showing obvious displeasure with the meeting process? Do you often leave a meeting and feel like it was a complete waste of time? If so, you are a victim of bad meeting management.
While I have been guilty of many of the things identified so far, I try to eliminate them as soon as I understand them. Now we will explore eight meeting concepts I have learned through direct observation, first-hand experience and feedback from participants. I am not yet the perfect meeting leader and I keep an open mind to ways to improve my meeting management skills.
One: Meeting Purpose
Briefly describe the purpose of the meeting. Are you discussing the annual budget, improvement ideas for the production plan, ways to reduce scrap or improve employee morale? Whatever the topic is, introduce or remind the attendee about the meeting purpose. Once established, it will be easier to control the discussion and questions as the meeting progresses.
Communicate the meeting purpose in one or two sentences. Long and complete meetings should take no more than a short paragraph to define the purpose.
Two: Scope of the Meeting
The scope of the meeting sets limits on the meeting. If the meeting is to discuss the annual budget, the scope will set the limits around what budget, for what department for what annual period. You could use the following scope description for your budget meeting.
“We will be discussing the 2015 annual budget for the manufacturing department for factory 5 located in Modesto, California.”
The group would then know that the 2016 budget is beyond the scope and so is factory 4 located in Stockton.
A verbal agenda is OK. A written agenda is good. A written agenda in all participants’ hands is better. A written agenda in all participants’ hands that guides the timing of discussions is ideal. Use an agenda.
Four: Robert and His Rules
According to the summary version of the rules (Roberts Rules of Order), they should, “… provides for constructive and democratic meetings, to help, not hinder, the business of the assembly. Under no circumstances should ‘undue strictness’ be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation.”
The purpose of ‘parliamentary procedure’, or if you will, ‘meeting management’, is to allow for both majority and minority opinions to be heard and discusses ultimately leading to consensus decision making.
Using the agreed upon level of Roberts Rules strictness, discuss the topics. If the meeting is a one-way sharing of information on new safety procedures, the level of discussion will obviously be less than a meeting of the Fellowship Committee on the location of the next company picnic.
Every meeting should allow for some questions at the end. The amount of time reserved for the question and answer period will vary depending on many factors. If possible, determine how long you will allow the question and answer period to take. This time length can be limited by the total number of questions permitted or time allowed for the Q and A period.
Using the Fellowship Committee example above, the meeting should conclude with a location decision or a short list of candidate venues for the picnic. The points that the participants have agree to a decision and have documented the decision and made that decision available to all.
Confidential meetings involving HR issues, salaries, discussions that are still unresolved, or ones involving proprietary information should be handled differently. It is common for the approved participants and those directly involved in meeting discussion process be informed pending a final decision, at which point the agreement is published in a more public way.
Seven: Task Assignments
Task assignments or actions resulting from meetings should have the information associated with the task. These details include all of the following:
- Task Owner
- Start Date
- Due Date
- Approved Resources
- Task Priority
Frequently the frustrating feeling that nothing of value results from the meeting process is due to poor task assignment.
Immediately before concluding the meeting, summarize-the decisions and agreements made in the meeting are quickly reviewed, the task assignments with task owner, start date, due date and the rest should also be reviewed. Finally, any follow-on meetings should be announced, then, the meeting concluded.
By careful consideration of meeting dynamics and the results achieved, a dedicated and determined meeting leader can make considerable and consistent improvements in meeting management over time.
Roberts Rules website, http://www.robertsrules.org/, retrieved September, 15th, 2013.