Do your business meetings make best use of valuable face-to-face time? Or do you feel frustrated by unproductive get-togethers? I am passionate about working with groups, and aim to turn their meetings into valuable forums where work gets done. I've outlined 10 questions below to help you prepare effectively
1. Do you need a meeting?
Many of the most wasteful meetings are ones where information is shared, but there's no distinct purpose or time for conversation. There must be clear outcomes, a minimum input of information and well-structured conversations.
2. What do you want to achieve?
Agendas are often made without a focus on outcomes. You need to be clear about the aims of the meeting.
3. Who needs to be there?
Make sure the critical experts and decision-makers are present and that bystanders and observers are minimised.
4. When is the best time?
Are there dates you should avoid? When are the deadlines for decisions from this meeting? When are you most likely to get key people there? What are the best timings on the day? Remember, you are unlikely to keep everyone happy.
5. Where is the best location?
This decision is usually based on getting people to the meeting and within a budget. But it is worth thinking about the environment you need. If you want a group to think strategically or be creative, then perhaps hold your meeting offsite.
6. Do you know expectations?
Meetings are often derailed because there are differences over what people want. Any time you spend before a gathering finding out what other people need is time well spent. This can involve speaking to key participants or emailing them.
7. What conversations are needed?
It is important to think about process as well as content here. What is usually prepared before meetings is the content to be discussed. But equally crucial is the process, or how you will hold those conversations.
8. How will decisions get made?
There are three types of decision-making in groups: decisions made by executives or experts; those based on a majority opinion; or consensus. Be clear about which method is appropriate for your meeting and clarify this with the group.
9. What documentation is required?
It is useful to consider specific outputs from the meeting. Often lengthy minutes and reports are produced when all that was needed was a list of actions. If a plan is produced in a meeting using sticky notes on a timeline, then it is useful for documentation to look like this, even if it is put into an electronic format.
10. What follow-up is required?
Even when people are committed to agreed actions, there needs to be follow-up. At the most basic level, publishing agreements by email or on an intranet or internet site means people can find a record of their actions. It can also be important to have status checks to help keep things on track-these can be done virtually or face-to-face.
Katherine Woods is founder of meeting facilitation company Meeting Magic