Home HomeContents ContentsPrev PrevNext Next

HPMD Bullets


The studies suggest that managers spend over half their time in meetings, and most of it is miserable. Why is that? The short answer is that that too many people don't know how to give good meetings. The prospects can be greatly improved by some advance preparation, and a dose of common courtesy. Here are our tips on making your meetings more effective:


1. The number one question to ask before going any further is: "is this meeting really necessary?" If the answer to that is "yes" or "not clear," read on. Otherwise cancel the meeting immediately.

2. Next question: "Are the right people going to be at the meeting?" followed by "Are the minimum number of people going to be at the meeting?" If the invite list only includes those needed to accomplish the meeting's objectives, great. Any "FYI" or "to-be-stroked" attendees are better off getting a copy of the minutes.

3. Be specific about the reasons for holding the meeting and the objectives to be accomplished with it.

a) Define what type of meeting it is to be: to solve a problem? review progress? plan a product or service? educate or inform? brainstorm?.

b) What are the objectives for this meeting? What do you hope to accomplish? Project yourself forward in time and ask "how would I know that the meeting was a success?"

c) Are the correct people attending to accomplish the meeting goals and no more?

d) Who are the people attending and what is their understanding of the topic? Will they need some instruction as part of the agenda?

e) An agenda with topic begin-end times should be provided in advance. In addition, any advance preparation or homework for the attendees (or key managers) is important. (i.e. "so and so look into agenda topic #5 and report to the meeting with findings/recommendations.") Meetings are not a good time to do basic information gathering; do it offline.

f) For any handouts, (1) number all pages, (2) number sections and items in sections, (3) staple the pieces together as one document. This makes it infinitely easier to refer to items during the discussion.

Agenda Checklist:

1. Does the agenda facilitate accomplishing the goals of the meeting?
2. Is some instruction needed to raise the attendees understanding of the topic?
3. Do not allow too much time for discussion on the agenda, but allow flex time for more discussion if it is going well. ( i.e. build in some slack into the schedule.)
4. Time breaks every 1.5-2 hours. Allow at least 15 minutes for a break.

During the Meeting:

1. At the start:

a) Present the agenda and gain approval.

b) Ask if any additional items need to be added, or any deleted.

c) Present and review the objectives for the meeting. For more than 3 objectives, they should be ranked to insure that the top priorities are dealt with first. Be sure to ask for the groups agreement on the ranking.

d) Tape up an "Issues" flip chart page for deferred items.

e) Recap the prior meeting, if any.

2. During the discussion:

a) Use a flip chart and solicit points for each topic from the group. Focus on completing the list with concise points. This helps people organize their thoughts into succinct phrases, such as:

- Where do we want to go?
- What are our obstacles to get there?
- How do we overcome these obstacles?

b) Allow only small digressions or tangents during the discussion. Guide the discussion back to the topic at hand with lines such as:

"That's a good point, I'd like to discuss that with you later...."
"Good point...how would I word that for my notes on this topic?"
"Let's put that point on the Issues page for later discussion..."

c) Don't allow side conversations to proliferate. When it happens, call everyone back to the agenda. There's only room for one conversation during a meeting.

d) As issues arise, list these on the Issues page, so that (1) the participants see that their ideas are not lost, and (2) as a way to keep the discussion focused on the main topic.

e) Watch for any concern expressed and acknowledge it when it happens. Add it to the Issues page.

f) Look for any signs of confusion or lack of understanding. You may need to provide occasional ad hoc education, particularly if it's important to understanding the issue at hand. However, beware of tangent. In most most cases, the need to know "how to" something can be deferred to the breaks.

g) Let each participant finish their comment or question before responding. Frequent interrupting gives the impression that your not listening or don't care. Ask a clarifying question or "echo" their comments (eg. "So you're asking if ... , right?").

h) Make sure you're answering the right question. Don't assume what the person means. Verify it by asking a clarifying question. ("Are you asking ... or .... ?)

i) When you identify a new need or concern, feed it back. ("So you're concerned about ..., right?)

j) For more technical topics, ask often if you need to go over something again. Don't assume your audience knows what you're talking about. It is an art to be able to translate the esoteric into everyday language. Try it.

k) Use a wipe board or flip chart liberally, jotting down ideas, points and issues on the Issues page. Number the pages and tape the sheets up on the wall so attendees can see the progression of the meeting. Refer back frequently to the taped up sheets.

l) Review the agenda again half way through the meeting and make any midcourse corrections.

m) For sessions where the team is being asked to buy-into the decisions and strategy, it is sometimes helpful to have each member of the team come up and sign the last flipchart to symbolize their commitment.

n) Start and end the meeting on time. Honor the clock!

3. At the end:

a) Review the meeting objectives and ask if each was met to their satisfaction. If not, make it an action item, or an objective for the next meeting.

b) Review Issues page. Identify which items have already been resolved, which can be scratched and which should become action items.

c) Summarize the action items. Identify "what, who, and when" for each: what will be done, who owns it, and by when will they complete it. Without specific action items, the meeting was a waste of time.

d) Ask if the action items will accomplish the objectives. If not, revise the actions.

e) Ask what the follow-up should be. Should another meeting be scheduled? What will be the agenda? (Do it now!)

f) Hand out half page meeting questionnaire on the effectiveness of the meeting and have everyone complete it before leaving. Ask 5-6 questions on how well the meeting met expectations, was well prepared, what should be changed for next time, etc.

After the Meeting:

1. Always have notes and flip charts typed and distributed within a week after the meeting.

2. Summarize the outcome of the meeting and feed it back to the attendees for their comments; reissue if necessary.

3. Smile. It went well!

© Copyright 1994, HP Management Decisions Ltd., All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 1996, 2024, HP Management Decisions Ltd., All Rights Reserved.