Meetings are pervasive throughout industry, business, government and our private lives. The corporate and government world spends millions of dollars on meetings and it is estimated that one third of those dollars are wasted. We waste millions because we don't run meetings well, the wrong people attend, the team leader isn't in control, the agenda isn't clear and participants don't engage sufficiently to make sound decisions. Along with these process and procedure failings are the indirect costs associated with travel time, facilities, materials, lost productivity, lost sales, and general operating costs.
The good news is that we can do something about this waste. We can strengthen our skills to run effective meetings.
Meetings have several purposes. They are required to inform, persuade, influence, instruct, stimulate and ultimately to make decisions. Make sure you are clear on why you are calling participants together for a meeting.
There are six important tasks one should complete before calling a meeting. They include: clarifying your objectives for the meeting – in other words clarify why are you calling the meeting in the first place in one to three statements; deciding who should attend and when they should attend; preparing the agenda so that it clearly indicates which item is for decision, information or action; scheduling the meeting including the date, time for each agenda item, and the expected end time for the meeting; and arranging for the physical setting, ensuring there is sufficient seating, proper room set up, and appropriate technology for presentations, and don't forget the coffee and juices.
As a meeting facilitator or meeting leader, you have several important functions. Here are seven to keep in mind:
As a facilitator/leader, not only do you have these seven functions to juggle you also have several group relations functions to fulfill as well. These include:
Encouraging: Drawing others into the conversation by helping them to express themselves and contribute to the team or group.
Empathizing: Being sensitive to interests, concerns, ambitions, frustrations and other group emotional reactions.
Harmonizing: Contributing as a peacemaker by smoothing out interpersonal clashes and moving unproductive behaviour to productive behaviour.
Modifying: Changing your opinion when facts warrant it. Remember you can’t change others opinions, only your own. You can give people the opportunity to change their thinking, but only they will do so and not because you said so.
Gatekeeping: Keeping the channels of communication open. In any group setting there are several channels of communication operating at the same time, the leader/facilitator’s role is to keep those channels flowing.
Evaluating: Requesting the group to assess how well the meeting went and whether it met the objectives laid out at the beginning. This is important if you wish to incrementally improve your meetings.
The next time you are charged with facilitating or leading a meeting review this article and you may find your meetings more productive with less time wasted. Rather than hearing, “Oh no, not another meeting!’ maybe you will hear, “We get things done in our meetings, decisions are made and we know what to do after them.”