The person organizing the get-together has a responsibility to the other participants to hold an effective meeting. Participants also need to stay on track and complete tasks to maximize use of time.
The responsibilities start even before the meeting begins.
Attendees, Location and Timing
The organizer makes the key decisions prior to the meeting. The organizer may or may not be the person who will chair the meeting, but they should work closely together prior to the meeting.
- Number of attendees: The people in attendance should correspond to the tasks that need to be completed. Any group larger than four needs some planning to be successful. Having more than 10 members is generally unwieldy, and very little is likely to get accomplished
- The right attendees: The group should include a mix of decision makers and those supplying the information for the decision maker. Include those with different viewpoints on the action, but it is not necessary to include every one is effected by the decision. Representatives should be present that can carry to the message back to other stakeholders. It is better to reconvene to modify a decision than to never make a choice because the meeting is too large to accomplish anything.
- Obtain the right sized location: It may seem obvious, but the place should be big enough for the participants and material, but not so big that it is difficult for participants to interact.
- Setting the length: It is important to provide enough time so that all viewpoints can be expressed. If too much time is allocated, the chairperson can adjourn early. An alternate strategy is to schedule a very short time, in an effort to force the group to come to a decision quickly.
- Setting the meeting time: One strategy is to have early morning meetings, in order to bring in everyone before the demands of the day interfere with attendance. Others prefer a bit later, so that persons can address overnight emails or late phone calls before attending. Similar issues are present in gatherings scheduled after lunch.
- Luncheon meetings vary in popularity, between those that prefer a free lunch if one is provided, and those that reserve their time for things outside work. Knowing the team and the budget is helpful in deciding on scheduling at mealtime.
- Offsite meetings should include a provision for travel time in everyone’s schedules.
Setting the Meeting Agenda
For the gathering to be successful, the organizer should prepare an agenda, with the important topics to discuss and the topics on which decisions should be made.
The agenda should be sent out ahead of the meeting, preferable more than a day in advance, giving participants an opportunity to review and suggest appropriate topics and others to invite, although it is still the organizer’s decision on who can attend in order to maintain focus and effectiveness.
If there are multiple agenda items, the organizer can allocate a specific time allotted for each item, which the meeting chair can enforce.
With proper preparation, meetings will be much more likely to accomplish appropriate goals, and improve productivity for the members and the organization.