With the amount of time we all spend in meetings, it’s important to streamline them as much as possible. Time wasted in a meeting is time wasted for everybody attending.
Your most important tool for keeping the meeting running on target and on time is the agenda. To create an effective agenda, London–based management and leadership training firm MindTools suggests the following:
1. Priorities—What absolutely must be covered?
2. Results—What do need to accomplish at the meeting?
3. Participants—Who needs to attend the meeting for it to be successful?
4. Sequence—In what order will you cover the topics?
5. Timing—How much time will spend on each topic?
6. Date and Time—When and where will the meeting take place?
With an idea of what needs to be covered and for how long, you can then look at the information that should be prepared beforehand. What do the participants need to know in order to make the most of the meeting time? What role are they expected to perform in the meeting, so that they can do the right preparation? If it’s a meeting to solve a problem, ask them to come prepared with a viable solution. If you are discussing an ongoing project, have each participant summarize his or her progress to date and circulate the reports to attendees.
Assigning a particular topic of discussion to various people is a great way to increase involvement and interest. On the agenda, indicate who will lead the discussion or presentation of each item.
Start the meeting on time, do not spend time recapping for latecomers, and, when you can, finish on time. Whatever can be done outside the meeting time should be.
Use your agenda as your time guide. When you notice that time is running out for a particular item, consider hurrying the discussion, pushing to a decision, deferring discussion until another time, or assigning it for discussion by a subcommittee.