written by: Linda Richter
• edited by: Jean Scheid
• updated: 1/2/2011
Good, productive meetings just don’t happen. They are the result of proactive planning and informed forethought. But it doesn’t take much—just follow these easy tips and learn the 6 elements of effective meeting management.
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1. Announce Your Meeting
Knowing the elements of effective meeting management can mean the difference between a productive meeting or a waste of time. Take these steps to ensure that all goes smoothly.
First, announce your meeting well ahead of time. Your people are busy: It’s not necessary to query their availability, but do respect their schedules. Giving them sufficient notice lets them rearrange other appointments, plus it maintains good morale. Do them the courtesy of emailing meeting announcements at least two weeks in advance.
Be certain your administrative assistant is trained in a calendar client such as Outlook so that he or she can keep track of attendance confirmations. She should also contact people who don’t respond. Have her make reminder phone calls the day before the meeting.
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2. The Double-Duty Agenda: Meeting Reminder and Itinerary
Let people know your meeting topics. One of the most important elements of effective meeting management is the agenda. Send it out well in advance so your attendees can consider the agenda topics and prepare any necessary reports. But don’t send it out with your initial meeting notice, distribute it separately as a second meeting reminder.
An agenda also keeps people focused during the actual meeting—if debate lingers over Item 2, people will remember that they still have Items 3-5 to cover.
Even if your team meets regularly, write the agenda. Then, if you realize there is no real business to discuss at a particular meeting, let everybody know well ahead of time that you are canceling—they’ll love putting the extra time to good, productive use.
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Start on time. Encourage attendees to arrive a few minutes early. If you’re offering coffee and donuts for the meeting, let people know they are only available five minutes before the meeting starts. While they’re munching, you can launch your agenda. Even if you go without snacks, starting on time is another way of respecting everybody’s busy schedules.
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4. Control the Talkers
Keep your agenda moving. This rewards the participants who put forth their most positive energy at every meeting; they are usually the ones who get bored by the talkers. Watch out for these types:
Social butterflies. These people, unintentionally or not, take advantage of the meeting as a forum for catching up. Don’t be afraid to give someone the eye to curtail their chatter. If that doesn’t work say, “We need to stay on task here; can I please have your attention.”
Complainers. They have negative comments about every issue. Ignoring them feeds their natural tendency to grumble. Stop them by saying, “Point noted, John,” or, for someone who voices multiple complaints, “We can meet separately to cover some of your particular issues. I'll email you to see when you’re available.”
Whiners. For the worst of the worst who never know when it’s time to be quiet, you can say, “I'm thinking of creating a committee to resolve some of these issues. Maybe you can head it up. I'll meet with you later.” This quiets most complainers because they would rather nitpick than actually resolve issues.
Ramblers. Some long-winded individuals make valid points but they go on and on. Interrupting them is often the only way to stop them. You can say, “I see your point, Joe; does anybody have a response to that?” Sometimes it’s necessary to utilize the same strategy as with the butterflies: “I see your point, Joe, but we need to move on. Let’s put this back on the agenda for our next meeting.”
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5. Notes About Minutes
Don’t ask a participant to jot down meeting notes because it minimizes his role and distracts him from ongoing discussions. Have your admin present to take minutes; they constitute one of the most important elements of effective meeting management and should be distributed within a few days of the meeting. Be certain they summarize the result of each agenda item, any new business, and notations of tasks assigned to specific individuals. When your admin publishes your next meeting date, she can reference the minutes so that everybody’s up to speed on what’s expected.
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6. Freestyle Comment Period, and Then: Adjourn
Give people an opportunity to voice individual concerns before you adjourn the meeting. It provides a healthy outlet for expression and increases their sense of worth as part of the team. Don't however, let the meeting run overtime. Your teammates have other appointments. If you want them to maintain full productivity, then show them you respect their busy schedules.