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Jun 16, 2015

Hold Productive Office Meetings


Not another one! This might be your immediate reaction when somebody suggests holding yet another meeting. While nobody likes them, meetings are a fact of workplace life. Such get-togethers help in solving problems, developing ideas, planning, or giving progress reports. But handled ineffectively, a meeting can lead to losses in both time and money. 

If you’re a supervisor, group leader or project manager, you may have to spearhead meetings every once in a while to align the team’s goals. So attendees won’t have to pretend to go to the restroom or to answer an urgent phone call to escape a blah meeting, read on for tips to make your powwows productive and purposeful.

1. Review the need for a meeting. Don’t hold on to routines, such as convening regularly for Monday morning meetings, if you’ve outgrown them. Ask yourself if such reunions still serve a purpose or if they can be held monthly instead. And if an upcoming meeting has lost its urgency, cancel it-people will only be too happy to receive the news.

2. Stay on track. It’s quite easy for the group to get sidetracked, so keep the members focused:
  • Cascade the agenda and objectives of the assembly days or even weeks in advance, and include your time frame per topic. Having time limits creates a sense of urgency among participants, making them get down to business at once.
  • Distribute minutes from the last meeting in advance too. This way, decisions made during the previous meeting need not be revisited to update those who were absent.
  • Unless it’s an emergency, don’t allow interruptions during the meeting. Remember that everyone has commitments and disruptions will only prolong the talk needlessly.
  • Begin and end on time. Be prompt and do not recap for latecomers unless absolutely crucial. Write relevant concerns raised on a white board for discussion later to avoid straying from the planned order of business. Have a timekeeper prompt you if you're falling behind schedule so you can adjust accordingly.
3. Schedule well. The best times for holding meetings are 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. After lunch is the worst, as people experience an energy drop right after a meal.

4. Plan the layout. Arrange the room so that members are facing each other in a circle or semi-circle. For large groups, try U-shaped rows. Choose a venue that suits your group's size. Small rooms crowded with people can be claustrophobic. A larger room is better and encourages individual expression.

5. Limit attendance. Meetings become less wieldy the greater the number of attendees. Determine who must be present throughout the whole session and who can come in when specific topics are touched and can leave afterward.

6. Agree on a meeting protocol. Draw up general rules such as "Don’t interrupt,” “Keep to the issue," "Show respect," and "Get to the point." Explain that these are not meant to suppress communication but to allow everyone to have their say within the period allocated.

7. Stand tall. If you’re having a brief meeting of 10 minutes or so, hold it with everyone standing.

8. Take a break. If it’s a long meeting, take a five-minute breather halfway through. This will dissuade people from becoming restless and inattentive. Providing lunch or snacks will help perk up the pack and change the pace of proceedings.

9. Maintain control. If a debate breaks out, stand up and summarize the stand of both sides so they will feel heard and understood. Ask for compromise solutions, or suggest that participants resolve the issue offline later and share the results by e-mail or at the next meeting.

10. Recap. Before closing the meeting, briefly review major decisions reached and the next steps planned. Schedule the date and time of a future meeting, if one is needed, to save you the trouble of making phone calls and sending announcement letters later on.

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