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Contributed by Jessica L. Barnes on 02/02/2010
It’s Groundhog’s Day, but you don’t have to be doomed to repeat the same mistakes in planning your meetings. Running, and even participating, in a good meeting is both an art and a science. You have to keep it moving, keep it on target, and yet make sure people don't feel hurried and unheard. Every meeting you attend can become more effective if you pay attention to three areas: CONTENT, DESIGN and PROCESS.
The key to content is to focus meetings around key issues. Sometimes it takes a lot of work before a meeting just to figure out what those key issues are. Sometimes the work simply has to be done in the meeting itself. Just never lose sight of the "what" of your meeting. Make sure each and every meeting is justified.
And to make sure everyone else feels that your meetings are justified, type up an outline of agenda items beforehand and email them around or pass out hard copies (bring a few extra along for stragglers). A whiteboard helps to keep agenda items in plain view.
We've all been here before. A meeting starts well enough; then suddenly people start talking about a later agenda item or they bring up new items out of the blue. The meeting quickly degenerates until there's no way a decision can be made about anything. In designing a meeting, figure out how you want to approach each agenda item. Each item on the agenda requires an accompanying implementation method. Use the tried-and-true stand-up-and-report method when you need to update a big group on your latest project. Brainstorming is great for ideas that need to be flushed out. And problem-solving techniques work well with particularly difficult dilemmas. Tailor your methods to the kind of content being discussed and you'll masterfully move the meeting along and get resolution on each item.
Here's where you really have to think on your feet. Are people participating? Do they feel there is room for their ideas? Are dysfunctional behaviors openly dealt with? Is there positive energy in the group? Are people committed to the task at hand and enthused about the way the group is working to complete the task?
A meeting, needless to say, is a dynamic process that can be positive or negative. You can help by checking in with "the quiet ones" during the meeting, or discussing meeting dynamics before or after the meeting with people you feel are having problems. You can improve the process by making sure that one idea is discussed at a time, and that everyone is in agreement as to how decisions will be made. If you pay attention to the content and design of your meeting, you can bet you'll have far fewer problems with process. Even if you're not the facilitator, you can help move meetings along by keeping an eye on content, design, and process. If you do, chances are more of your goals and desires will be met.
These TIPS are courtesy of Eric J. Adams at www.1099.com.