Effective Meeting Guidelines
I’ve sat in many, many meetings, some were much better than others. Here are my tips and meeting guidelines for running an effective meeting:
First of all – do you really need a meeting? Is there a better way to resolve the issue?
Meetings are formal and often recorded. You may get different information and opinions from an informal meeting. Take a look at my previous blog on Communication Methods which looked into this further.
The following meeting guidelines should provide steps to conduct a meeting and suggest meeting ground rules.
Planning a Meeting
Here are some tips to get organised before the meeting takes place:
- First of all, plan the meeting. Book the venue, invite attendees, and issue the agenda in good time
- State clearly what the purpose of the meeting is, and the desired outcomes
- Only invite those people required to achieve the meeting objectives
- State that the meeting will start promptly
- On the agenda state the proposed time for each item
- Organise a note taker to take the minutes before the meeting starts
- Arrange refreshments as appropriate. A coffee to start will encourage early arrival and allow time for informal discussions
Giving thought to the meeting well beforehand will help the meeting start from a good position.
Meeting Ground Rules/Guidelines
The following can be used as a set of meeting ground rules:
- Agenda issued in good time.
- Start on Time. A late start encourages further future lateness. Moreover, punish latecomers by not repeating or going over material they missed.
- No interruptions. Only one person to talk at a time.
- Actions from previous meetings will be completed or reported on before the meeting takes place – never at a meeting.
- No mobile phones, tablet, or computer use unless agreed.
- Agenda contains a set time for each item, proposed and then agreed.
- Chair does not take minutes, but concentrates on chairing the meeting.
- There is a designated note taker. This could be a ‘junior’ in a development position.
- Actions to be named to a single individual and a date set for completion (never for the next meeting which is an arbitrary date)
Most of the above is common sense, but it is surprising how many times these items are forgotten or ignored.
A good chair is essential to any meeting. A chair cannot do their job properly if they are taking notes:
- Introduce the purpose of the meeting and make sure the attendees know each other
- Make sure that there are no conflicts of interest
- Move through agenda at the agreed timing. If something is taking too long re-agree the timings, or take the item off-line
- Introduce each agenda item with a brief background and the desired outcomes
- Invite all attendees to speak on each issue
- Hold back overly vocal people
- Summarise discussion on each point to help the minute taker. (The definition of ‘minutes’ is that each item is summarised in a minute)
- Refreshments allowed at appropriate points
- One conversation at a time – the chair needs to stop side-conversations occurring
Because a project manager is often seen as a project leader, leadership of the meeting is required by chairing with confidence.
Meetings are About People Communicating
Communication is vital to project success. However, often meetings can take too long. One method of shortening meetings is to hold “stand-up” meetings where there are no seats. A second method is to hold a daily “start of the day” meetings limited to 15 minutes to cover ‘progress from yesterday’, ‘key actions for today’ etc.
One of the main reasons for project failure is a breakdown in communication. You may want to think about the team dynamics, or development of the group into a team and your required leadership style before the meeting.
The meeting will involve some of the project stakeholders. Make sure you understand their viewpoints before the meeting starts.
If you do have a difficult attendee (Talking too much? Dominating? Going off-topic) then talk to them quietly outside of the meeting, and help them develop a better meeting manner.
Projects have special types of meetings:
- Project Kick-off Meetings
- Progress Meetings
- Project Review Meetings
These are all linked as I write further blogs.
Running effective meetings is a real skill. People will be pleased to attend a well run meeting, and dread a poorly organised shambles.
If you can’t run a 1 hour meeting efficiently, then why are you in charge of a project that may take 6 months?