Some companies are overly reliant on meetings and this leads some people to believe that all meetings are a waste of time. Of course, it's true that not all meetings are a good use of time, but certainly they are not all a waste of time either.
Meetings have their place. Formal meetings are a way to get the right people in the same place at the same time. A well-run meeting can get the right people together to make decisions or to discuss some item of common interest.
On the other hand, poorly run or unnecessary meetings can also be a major time waster. So, before you schedule a meeting and ask people to make the time commitment, do everything you can to make the meeting as effective as possible. Consider the following meeting best practices.
- In general, all meetings should have an agenda. The creation of the agenda takes a little extra work, but they are a way to give structure to the meeting to make sure that the time is well spent and that your meeting objectives are met. (Regularly scheduled meetings do not need a published agenda every week. The formal agenda is of value while the team is first meeting, but then you just follow the format in subsequent meetings.)
- After you create an agenda, follow the agenda and watch the time to make sure everything gets covered.
- There should be a meeting facilitator. This is usually the person who requested the meeting unless other arrangements have been made. For ongoing status meetings, the facilitator is usually the project manager, but the facilitator role can be rotated.
- Make sure the participants know ahead of time of anything they need to bring to the meeting or any advance preparation that needs to take place. If people are unprepared, they will not be as effective as they need to be.
- Only invite the people that need to be there. Others may dilute the effectiveness of the meeting, plus people become jaded if they are invited to meetings when they don't need to be there.
- The meeting should start on time, with some allowance for those that may be coming from another meeting.
- The person who requested the meeting should explain the purpose and the expected outcome.
- Someone should document any action items assigned during the meeting. This will be the facilitator or originator unless other arrangements have been made. Recap all outstanding action items toward the end of the meeting, including who is responsible, what is expected, and when the action item is due.
Meetings can be more than a necessary evil. Well-run meetings can be a very effective use of the attendee's time. Don't settle for anything less!