Ok, you have decided that a meeting is needed. To get the most out of your meeting, the first step is to create a meeting agenda and share it in advance with everyone. If a meeting is needed, then it is worth planning ahead. Why?
Create the Agenda
First, make a list of questions you need answered. Identify who has the information you need to answer the question. Set time limits for each question or topic. Give it your best guess as to the time required. You may have to adjust the time somewhat but try not to deviate too much as the meeting may get off track.
Second, identify only those that need to be included in the meeting. List them on the meeting agenda. Having additional participants that are not directly involved in the issue to be discussed can slow the meeting, as well as waste the time of participants that can not contribute.
Third, send it out days in advance of the meeting so everyone has time to prepare, and they have the opportunity to share information that others may need about the specific topics prior to meeting. The agenda also signals each person on what they are expected to contribute.
Now create your agenda. Each agenda should include specific information or actions they need to take place prior to the meeting, and always end with time to recap decisions made, or a list of action items. Each topic area listed should identify who is responsible. If you need information presented, it should identify the individual responsible so they can properly prepare.
As we noted in the previous blog, each meeting should have a purpose. Primarily to exchange information for the purpose of making a decision or problem solving. Include the purpose of the meeting in the agenda. It should not be a secret.
A sample meeting agenda following this format has been included as a downloadable file in word format at the end of this article. Scroll down and read it. You should have a good idea what the meeting is for, and who is responsible for what information items.
In this example, you are Bill, the Services Manager. The participants are ones that increased their requests for rush mail orders to the mailroom over the past several months. NOTICE: At the end of the meeting you will provide a recap of decisions made and the solution(s) identified.
Conducting the Meeting
Now it is time for your meeting. You have prepared everyone in advance for what the purpose, topics, and the specific information they need.
Start the meeting with a quick review of the agenda. Make sure to state the purpose of the meeting, and this is your opportunity to share what outcomes you expect. Using our sample agenda; “Thanks everyone for coming. As you can see on the agenda, we are trying to find a solution to the number of mail rush requests we are receiving.”
Also, consider identifying a few key people to help keep the meeting on task. People that are participating can serve in these capacities:
Productive meetings will always end with solutions, or if there is not enough information available, a list of next steps that will lead to second meeting agenda. Spending time in creating an agenda will ensure your meetings are needed, and meet the purpose you set for the meeting. Participants are prepared when the meeting starts so you can gain the most use of everyone’s time.
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