Meetings are a powerful way to communicate, share knowledge and experience, trigger innovation, and take informed decisions. Yet, for many, attending meetings is a waste of time. That often happens because meetings are not well managed. If we take proper care of the three stages in a meeting process, our meetings can easily create high value and leave the participants satisfied. What are those three stages? And what should we consider in each stage?
1. Before. Preparing for a meeting is a critical success factor. Before we meet face-to-face (physically or virtually), consider the following actions:
a) Beginning: At this stage, the meeting leader should set a welcoming and encouraging tone, state the agreed purpose of the meeting and expected outputs, agree on the agenda, and define ground rules and roles.
b) Engage. At this stage, the meeting leader should use strategies to promote wide engagement among the participants. A useful technique is to use open, overhead questions. The meeting leader should provide opportunity for all members to contribute and avoid a few monopolising the discussions. The meeting leader should listen actively to motivate the meeting participants. It is more useful if the leader listens more and speaks less. Otherwise, s/he will crowd out the opportunity for her/his colleagues to share their thoughts.
c) Drill deeper. Once the various ideas and opinions have been brought to the table, the meeting leader should identify key issues and encourage the participants to explore those in depth.
d) Close. At this stage, the meeting leader´s role is to summarise and document key points, conclusions, and way forward. The date for the follow up meeting, may also be decided at this stage.
3. After. Soon after the meeting, the leader should arrange for the preparation and circulation of the draft minutes of the meeting among the participants. After the deadline for receipt of comments, s/he should finalise the minutes and circulate once again, this time for information and action. Thereafter, it is important for the leader to monitor actions that were to be taken, to ensure that things happen on time and, obstacles, if any are managed efficiently and effectively.
Meetings are unavoidable in an organisation. They are also powerful tools for organisational effectiveness and development. Simply because meetings happen often is no reason not to prepare for, and manage them, with care.