We’ve all found ourselves in this situation – dreading the boredom of another pointless meeting. Yet, when it’s our turn, we still call people together. If meetings are such a waste of time, why do we keep having them?
And how can you make meetings work for you, now you are the chair?
Good preparation ensures the best outcomes.
Set a tight agenda
Make sure to set a tight agenda that only contains issues that need to be discussed when the group gets together. Your items should be important to the organisation, strategic and controversial. They should be items where different views need to be heard.
Don’t make the meeting longer than it needs to be. Administrivia is a waste of everyone’s time – deal with it another way.
Involve key stakeholders in setting the agenda
Call for agenda items from the group well in advance. If papers are required, ensure the group gets enough time to read and consider them before the meeting. Including items from other people gives them ownership in the meeting’s success. However, you also need to understand why these items have been added so you are not caught out by a hidden agenda.
Go through the minutes of the previous meeting, check the progress of action items and ensure as many tasks as possible have been completed.
Make sure attendees are aware whether the meeting, or individual items, are confidential, before the meeting begins. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for confidentiality acknowledgements for highly sensitive material.
Get the decision-makers in the room
Meetings are about decisions, so you need to get the decision-makers at your meeting. The more important the decision, the more important it is to get the people with the authority to make decisions to attend. Consider what people expect to gain from coming to your meeting.
Dealing with substitutes
If people want to send a substitute, make it clear that decisions will be made and their substitute will be part of those decisions. If people are constantly sending substitutes, they are telling you that your meeting is not important. Ask yourself whether they need to be part of the group at all and, if they are needed, ask them why they are not attending.
Schedule the meetings well in advance and set the mode
To make sure people can attend, fix the dates and venues of your meetings at the beginning of the year and don’t move them. Decide whether people can attend virtually to reduce travel time. If a meeting must be face-to-face for people travelling long distances, make sure the content is worth their while. You can waste a lot of relationship capital by insisting on personal attendance for meetings with routine content.
Set the meeting up properly
Delegate the set up to someone you trust. Make sure the meeting room is properly set-up before the meeting starts. Provide food and drink if the meeting is to go for more than 2 hours or if people have travelled a long way to get there. Without a practical set up, you risk losing engagement.
Talk to people before the meeting as items and papers are being developed and take their concerns on board. Enlist allies to speak in support of your items. Know what objectors will say before they speak. Anticipate questions and address these in your papers. Make sure you know what members will say and, if applicable, how they will vote, before the meeting starts.