Derek Elliott - Principles of Effective Meetings

The Meetings are a key component of an efficient workplace.

The Meetings are a key component of an efficient workplace. In them, people touch base, discuss where they are in their various projects and make plans for the future. They are not, however, just a group of people sitting around and talking. Rather, effective meetings need to follow some basic principles. They need to have the right people, clear objectives and actionable outcomes at their conclusion.

A meeting needs to have an agenda. Every participant needs to know exactly why he is in the meeting and what the meeting's goals are. If the meeting does not have a clear goal, it will be impossible to say whether it was successful. What's more, if that goal is not written down and distributed to everyone involved, it is difficult to get people engaged and actively working toward that goal. After all, people cannot focus on a goal if they do not know what it is.

Another key principle of an effective meeting is that the right people be involved. This takes some planning, especially in large organizations. Not only do meetings need to be coordinated to ensure that the right people are available, a great deal of thought also needs to be put into whom to invite in the first place.

The Management Help recommends consulting colleagues before a meeting to see if the right people are being invited. Outside opinions can be invaluable when it comes to choosing meeting participants.

During the Meeting:
In an effective meeting, every participant is ready to discuss the issue at hand. The best way to ensure this is to send reading material to participants beforehand; if they have recently read about the issue, they'll be ready to discuss it in greater detail.

An effective meeting also flows well. You can't expect people to have good ideas immediately; rather, you should warm them up by asking for their thoughts on the reading material, their thoughts on the issue and anything else to stimulate relevant discussion. Once you do this, you can move into the nuts and bolts of the task at hand, addressing specific problems and finding specific solutions.

Action Items:
Finally, a meeting needs to end with a clear next step. People need to know precise actions that they need to follow through with and when they need to do so. This gives the meeting purpose; it moves past just brainstorming and sharing information and into the realm of the quantifiable. Action items at a meeting's conclusion are the key principle of effective meetings.

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