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How to Have Successful Group Meetings

Chapter 2 Before the Meeting

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Successful Meetings                                        Chapter2

 

Before the Meeting

 

A meeting does not happen on its own. A lot of the planning needs to be done before hand, in order to make sure that the best results are achieved. The first and most important thing you need to do as the planner is establish a purpose. Without a clear purpose there is no reason to have the meeting in the first place. The purpose of a meeting is like the thesis of a paper; it is the core of which everything revolves around. When there is a clear purpose, the meeting can move along much more quickly with better input from your attendees. To find your purpose there are many questions to ask in order to nail down your main points (Hotler 2003, Lippincott 1994).

 

 

6 Important Questions to Ask

 

1.      “What is the objective; what do I want to accomplish with this meeting?”

If all you need to do is get information out, than maybe a meeting isn’t needed. This could be accomplished with an e-mail or a bulletin.

2.      “Is the information so important that it needs to be said in person, so that       your co-workers can hear the emotional emphasis on certain points?”

3.      “Is your intention to receive feedback from others?”

4.      “Is there a problem that needs to be solved?”

5.      “Do your employees need training in a new field or exercise?”

6.      “Do you just want to check up on everyone and see where they are at?”

Whatever the case is, make sure you know exactly why you are assembling a group of people, and define what you hope to achieve (Lippincott 1994).

 

 

Choose your Audience and Location

 

Once you have figured out what your purpose/objective is for your meeting, the next step is to identify your audience. Depending on who will be at the meeting, will dictate how you present the material. The way you present the meeting to business executives, will be much different then if you were presenting to a group of truck drivers or warehouse workers. Who can you invite to help make the best decisions or give the best input? This is very important. People will not be too happy with you if their time was wasted at a meeting they did not need to go to. If a decision has to be made, someone who has the power to move through with the decision should be present. 

 

Now that you have your purpose and the information you want to convey, along with what type of people you will be presenting to.

A good place to go next is, “Where should the meeting take place?” You want the location to be as convenient as possible for all the attendees. Would an off-site location be better, or would on-site be more convenient? Wherever you choose to hold the meeting, make sure the distractions are kept to a minimum. A place with lots of windows and people constantly walking by probably wouldn’t be the best idea. The time of day and the day of the week are also important factors. Meetings on Monday morning or Friday afternoon make it hard for employees to focus with the week just starting or just about to end. The time of day can also affect the outcome of the meeting. People are fresh in the morning, but might have a lot of work to attend to, or leftover work from the day before. On the other side, holding a meeting at the end of the day is also a poor time; employees are mentally drained and just want to go home. Try not to hold a long meeting filled with lecturing right after lunch unless you want your audience to fall asleep (Lindenfield 2002, Pollock 1993).

 

Meetings also cost money. A single meeting can easily cost a company $1000. Think of having multiple meetings a week, a month, it is a huge cost. The people in the meeting could be doing things other than just sitting and listening for a couple hours. These are all very important questions to ask before your meeting in order to make it productive and worthwhile.

 

Setting the Agenda

 

One of the most powerful tools to bring your future meeting attendees together is the agenda. When planning the agenda, there are three main purposes that it serves. The first purpose of the agenda is to clarify your thoughts and the objective for the meeting, as well as help to identify any pre-meeting strategies that will help you increase your effectiveness.  We all know the more you think about and study something, the better you know the material and the main points. That is exactly what preparing an agenda does. The next purpose of an agenda is to prepare people ahead of time for what is to come. Circulating the agenda, usually by e-mail, lets the attendees know what to prepare for. This allows them to formulate ideas and questions, and know exactly what to expect. Finally, the agenda provides direction and focus for the discussion. It is a point of reference for the leader to look back upon, and also for others to look and see what is next.  The agenda also helps make a meeting move along quicker, and keeps people on track. Every agenda looks different in form but provides the same three basic services.

 

3 Basic Services

 

        Clarify

        Purpose

        Focus

 

Writing the Agenda

 

There are a few key items that every agenda should have to be effective. The first item is the title. Whatever you make your title to be, it will emphasize the reason for the meeting. The title is the first words someone sees when they pickup the agenda. The time, date, and location of the meeting should be clear on the agenda. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind where they should be, and when. This should be at the top of the agenda in bold writing, so it cannot be missed. Next, the objective should be stated. Tell people why the meeting is being held; include the purpose and specific objectives. This allows participants to plan their responses and ideas, and have a clear idea why the meeting is being called. Listing the participants is also a good idea. Letting the attendees know who will be there, will better help them prepare, if they have a hard time dealing with someone. It also reminds those people on the list that they are expected to show up. Next to the names on the attendee list should also be the role that each participant will have at the meeting. This tells the participants what is to be expected of each of them, and what they need to contribute (Lippencott 46).

 

Following who will attend, and the objective, come the agenda items. Each item you plan on discussing should be placed in chronological order for the discussion. The most important item should be to make sure you have enough time to fully discuss the issues and make a decision if need be. Every item should include the following information in order for your participants to plan, and contribute to the discussion.

Each item should have:

 

  • Description of what the issue is, or whatever is to be discussed.
  • The goal, desired outcome, or what you want to accomplish for this topic.
  • Any relevant background information that pertains to the topic. Such information could include; minutes of past meetings, or a brief explanation of the problem.
  • The time you are allocating for discussion of the topic.
  • The name of each person responsible for covering the items during the meeting.

 

When preparing the agenda try not to overload it with too many topics. If you want the meeting to be productive, you have to keep in mind the attention spans of the attendees. It is better to have more than one meeting rather than trying to fit too much into a single sitting.

 

Think About Your Attendees

           

Input from other people is also very important. Before the meeting, talk to others and see what they want to talk about. There could be some problems or issues out there that need to be discussed that you would only find out by getting input from others. They might also have suggestions for some of the topics on the agenda, or what you can do to make the meeting better. Be sure you share the credit with other people. If someone contributes an agenda item, put it on there to give them credit. People want personal recognition, and it encourages participants to submit ideas in the future. Put your most compelling agenda items at the top.  People are more aware at the start of the meeting rather than the end. If someone sees an important item first, they are less likely to show up late, it encourages punctuality. Being able to be flexible with your agenda is also very important. Consider special time constraints for people who may not need to be there for the whole meeting or who are not able to attend the entire meeting. Do not get bent out of shape if someone has to leave early to attend other business, be flexible and keep on going. To make the meeting a little more exciting consider scheduling outside guests, but make sure they are at the start of the meeting so they can leave when they are finished.

 

The final thing to do before the meeting is to make sure there is food. Food always makes people feel more comfortable. When someone walks into the meeting room and they see a platter of donuts or muffins, they get pretty excited. In almost any situation food lightens the mood and makes people more comfortable. Besides food, make sure you have all necessary supplies to run the meeting. A flip chart for brainstorming, a projector and screen for PowerPoint, and even things like pens and paper pads for people to write on are a necessity for holding a meeting. Now you are on your way to start a successful meeting (Lippencott 46).

 

 

Sample agenda:

 

The following agenda has a brief description of what should go in that area. For example; where it says “thesis of your meeting,” you put in your title which should be the thesis of

 

 

 

Thesis of Your Meeting? What you Want to get Across

Meeting Date

Where your meeting is located

 

 

Meeting called by:

 

Type of meeting:

 

Facilitator:

 

Note taker:

 

Timekeeper:

 

 

 

 

 

Attendees:

 

Please read:

 

Please bring:

 

 

Agenda

 

First Topic

Whos Responsible

 

Second Topic

Whos Responsible

 

So on and so on

 

 

 

Additional Information

 

Observers:

 

Resource persons:

 

 

 

 

 

Effective & Successful Group Meetings