I have been lately going to a number of meetings that made me think about why people don’t like meetings. Meetings became something like a plague in the corporate world; people make jokes about them; everybody hates going to meetings, but yet nobody seem to do anything about it. So I decided to put together a few simple tips that could possibly make meetings a little less frustrating for people.
1. Clearly State the Purpose
Too many times I have been invited to the meetings for the projects that have already been going on for quite some time and every time I had this feeling that I was watching a movie starting from the middle. I did not understand what was discussed; I did not understand the goal of the conversation; and what was even more upsetting: I did not know what was expected of me in this meeting. I am sure many people could relay to that. So my suggestion to the people who organize meetings: clearly define the goal of the meeting and if you invite someone who is new to the project or the subject that will be discussed then provide some additional background information.
The purpose of this meeting is to review the latest project plan and identify the potential concerns from sales and marketing.
This will help people prepare for your meeting, and potentially identify and invite additional people who could provide critical information that will be important for your decision making later.
2. Clearly Define the Desired Outcome
In other words you need to specify how you will judge if the meeting was successful. This will help everyone to focus on the objective and will save you a lot of time in the meeting.
The ideal outcome of this meeting is the list of risks that we will need to manage during the project.
This gives everyone who is invited a pretty good idea of what needs to be accomplished in the meeting and helps avoid confusion and minimize the time spent in the meeting talking about other things.
3. Provide Plan of Action
Some people call it meeting agenda but I prefer to call it a meeting plan. The reason for that is that agenda implies rigid order and specific sequence of discuss topics with timeline. In many cases the meeting organizer simply cannot know all of these things or quite honestly it may not make sense to time box the items on the list. Instead I prefer to state in the plain human language how we are going to go about accomplishing the meeting goal (see item #2 on the list above).
In order to identify the risks we all will take a bunch of 3×5 cards and on each card we will write one potential issues that we could foresee on this project along with the probability of the problem occurring, the approximate time line when it could occur, and the expected impact. Then all of the cards will be reviewed by the group, to remove the duplicates, and will be given to the project manager to add to the risk management plan.
In this example we would set clear expectations for what will happen in the meeting and what is expected from the attendees.
4. Meetings Are For Gathering Ideas or Sharing Information
Many people expect to make the vital decision in the meeting and sometimes it does work, but more often than not, the final decision will be made outside of the meeting. Especially, when the stakes are high. This is happening because meetings are not good for decision making. They are good for gathering ideas, brainstorming, or sharing the information. So before you call a meeting, please, think about what you can accomplish and if the meeting is the right way of doing it.