For years I have been operating in not-for-profit boards. Within these director meetings, Im forever impressed at how efficient the NFP sector is, not only financially, but temporally. People are extremely efficient with their time when they giving it for free.
I note this in contrast to many of the employed positions I have held where meetings can often blow-out in time and, in terms of productivity and outcome, sometimes collapse altogether. Many of these issues are identifiable from the start. A meeting will be called, no agenda is provided, and the event revolves around opinion and debate but with no outcomes apart from steam letting. These things are important, but don’t warrant a meeting of everyones time.
Some excellent and basic tips for effective meetings are summarised here by Christine Comaford. You can fine the original article at Forbes but I have gleaned most of the salient information and presented it here to avoid the pop-up ads. Crucially, she identifies the types of information that are useful in meetings and those that are not.
She then goes on to outline best practice techniques for setting and running effective meetings:
1. Set the meeting’s intention in advance: what exactly do you want to accomplish?
Will an email suffice instead of a meeting?
If it’s to get everyone aligned and to allocate work, then set a tight agenda and wrap the meeting within 45 minutes. The key is allow only enough Info Sharing to solicit Requests from parties who need something and Promises from those who will deliver. If it’s a company meeting/update session for the team, keep it short with segments for summary result info, current obstacles and plans to overcome them, future goals, a short education session and celebration of people/recent accomplishments.
Is the meeting’s purpose to share your thoughts/feelings? Have a one-on-one huddle for 10-15 minutes instead.
Is it to debate or point prove? How necessary is that?
2. Invite the doers, decision makers, impacted parties only.
Often meetings are too crowded because too many unnecessary people are invited. The point of the meeting is to get stuff done as a group. Get the people in the room who will facilitate that or be affected by it.
3. Have a clear meeting leader and tight time-lined agenda.
The meeting leader’s task is to keep everyone on track and drive to results. Once each key point of the meeting is mapped out, keep the focus on achieving your intention. Other topics and side conversations will be handled off line later with the appropriate parties present. Also the goal isn’t to solve detailed problems in the meeting, it’s to assign responsibilities based on Requests and Promises made. The responsible individuals will follow through post-meeting.
4. Send a recap email of all responsibilities post-meeting.
The meeting leader will summarize the Requests, Promises and details of each. Remember a vague Request (can you get me info on our top advertisers?) versus a clear Request (can you get me a report of our top 50 advertisers in the USA with spending history for the current + past 5 years in a spreadsheet by 4pm this Friday?) will help the Promise maker to succeed. The meeting leader’s job is to ensure all participants are set up to succeed in executing their Promises.
The result of the above is meetings that are efficient, effective, and keep your team happy and executing with high accountability. Further, it’ll reduce B.S., frustration, and disengaged team members.