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How to Plan an Effective Official Meeting

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The quality review is just a month away. I am having back-to-back meetings and not finding time to get my own work done!” said a colleague at work.  

Seems familiar? 

Meetings are an integral part of any workspace, and yet at times, we land up in a room, wondering what we are doing there in the first place?

So, how do we ensure an effective official meeting?

Here are few tips, so things go as planned and work gets done productively:

1. Is the meeting really needed? (Purpose)

The first step to ensuring an effective meeting is answering this question. If the meeting is to share information about a recently communicated employee policy, chances are it can be done over a detailed e-mail. If team leaders have queries on the policy, calling them over to get those solved can be done over a brief conversation.

Monthly business meetings act as crucial data points for discussing the month gone by and activities proposed for goals achievement in the coming days; weekly meetings to continuously keep the team on track and daily huddles for quick problem-solving; communication regarding customers currently in the system and so on. Still, it’s always better to run through the agenda and decide who should be there.

2. Who all are needed for the meeting? (Participants)

Usually, formal gatherings mandate the attendance of a fixed set of people depending on the company protocols. However, when the meet is being organized for introducing something new or for the resolution of a problem, one must take the trouble to scan the invitees’ list. This is to ensure members present contribute meaningfully. With a relevant and optimal participant mix, you’re just a step away from a constructive interaction. 

Related: How to Practice Active Listening in the Workplace

3. What points will be discussed? (Agenda)

Create an itemized list for deliberation during the meeting. Broadly decide the time required for each item, so the meeting doesn’t prolong unnecessarily. When you have the purpose and participants in place, you’ll find that the discussion is crisp and to the point. It’s also a great idea to circulate the meeting outline earlier so people can come prepared.

“You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question.” Bill Gates

4. Where & when will the meeting take place? (Date/time/venue)

This is not rocket science. Still, people miss out on this important aspect of convening a meeting. Small meeting rooms for informal huddles and an auditorium or a large conference room to accommodate a congregation is the thumb rule. Venue availability may pose an issue; hence always book in advance.

It’s best to provide a week’s notice to attendees; if you’re expecting them to sit through for more than a half-hour, they can organize their workday accordingly. Sending a reminder on the previous day or first thing in the morning when the meeting is scheduled for the latter part of the day is also considered an appropriate business etiquette. 

Related: Improve Your Leadership to Earn Employees’ – Trust and Respect

5. Begin on time, keep track of the time

You’ve sent your meeting request and reminder/s; now it’s your responsibility to manage time for others and yourself by commencing on the dot. Attending colleagues have their own sense of duty and may/may not be punctual, but as a convener, you should not only start but always be conscious of the time spent on discussing each agenda topic. Make a note of the perpetual late-comers if this is a periodic assembly and communicate to avoid disturbances during the proceedings.

6. Who will do what? (Participant roles)

More applicable to deliberations involving sizeable groups, one must assign specific tasks to the participants. Important roles could be – note-taker or scribe (captures discussion points, action-plan, suggestions and members responsible for closure), time-keeper (ascertains decorum getting people back on track), specialist (subject-matter expert for knowledge-sharing).

Take care that the SME is called only when needed and not for the entire duration of the meeting.

Related: How to Motivate and Build a Collaborative Team

7. Use of technology

Do a pilot with all tools you’re to use – laptop, projector, mike, presentation, etc., so you’re not caught unaware. Have an IT resource available just in case of a technical glitch.

For virtual meetings, get familiarised with the features; similar principles of a physical appearance apply. Some of these include sending the meeting link in advance, testing audio/video, deciding on speaker/s, co-hosts, screen-share, organizing material for display during the presentation, and a moderator to monitor chat and Q/A in case of a panel and so on.

8. What next? (Action plan)

Like the program agenda creation, sending out minutes of the meeting or decided action-points to all attendees post-meeting displays clarity of purpose and efficiency. Invitees who were absent can get up to speed, seniors/other members are apprised, and the document also becomes a precursor for the upcoming meeting.

Effective planning of a meeting demonstrates you respect others’ time as much as your own, start today!

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Rekha Rao
Rekha is a part-time writer, full-time mom. She’s equipped with skill-sets in the areas of content writing, customer service, employee engagement, and training. One who believes learning never ends, she’s a student for life.

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