Monday, July 14, 2008

Conducting effective meeting

Having meetings is common in the business world. However, from my personal experience, a lot of meetings were held in a non-effective way. Sometimes, they are not productive too. The time wasted in those meeting could be very costly, imagine how much wages or salary were paid to the participants sitting in the meeting room during the time of meeting, and what if they were doing other more productive business activities instead of sitting in the meeting room.

I learnt some ways to conduct more effective meeting. I would define an "effective meeting" as a meeting that:

  • meets the objectives and goals of having the meeting
  • produces fruitful outcome and action plans
  • lively discussion among the participants (not one-way communication from chairperson only)
  • every participants are clear about their role and follow up actions
  • used as little time as possible

In order to achieve an effective meeting, here are some guidelines.

1. Meeting is more for discussion than announcement

A lot of people like to conduct meeting just for announcement. Those meetings are of one-way communication. I believe most of the time announcements can be made in the form of memo, circular, email, etc.

Meeting can be held to discuss about the announcement, to ensure everybody understand the message clearly. The announcement should be made before the meeting. If calling up a meeting is just for announcing something, and that announcement is not something very significant or impacting, most of the time you might find that those meetings might not be necessary at all.

2. All participants should clear about what will be discussed in the meeting

It is a good practice to disseminate meeting agenda and related documents prior to the meeting. All participants should get well prepared for the meeting by understanding the discussion topics and get ready the material for discussions.

In this way, supporting documents can be well prepared and presented during the meeting. The discussion could be more lively and get everybody involvement as everyone already aware about the discussion topics and ready for their involvement.

3. When discussion has gone off-topic, chairperson need to control the situation

When discussion has gone off-topic, or there is a long debate within certain participants that couldn't be easily solved on the spot, the chairperson should control the situation and ensure that the time is managed as planned in the agenda.

Most of the time, it is wise to schedule a separate meeting for those discussions, or let the person involved to resolve the matter among themselves later, instead of wasting other participants' precious time in the meeting room.

4. Discussion should come to mutual conclusion and action items

The meeting is not effective if discussion produce nothing. The discussions should have outcome which is well minuted. The minutes of meeting should be disseminated to all the participants shortly after the meeting. Even for informal meetings, it is wise to produce a "disucssion notes" to record down the outcomes and action plans.

5. When the planned time on the agenda is over, get participants' input about extension

It is very irresponsible for the chairperson to let the meeting time drag on, which might affect the time schedule of every participants in the meeting room. When the allocated time is over, and meeting suppose to adjourne, but the discussions were not finished yet, the chairperson should get the participants' input for time extension, proposed new adjourne time, possible continued discussion at another time, etc.

Especially when it reaches the lunch or dinner hour, the meeting should decide if a short break is required for participants to go and eat, or food to be brought into the meeting room, etc. The chairperson should not just let the meeting continue on with hungry participants.


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