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Meeting Mania - Pt. 2
By Rhonda F. Waters   Printer Friendly Version

Wondering what to do about conducting or attending too many meetings? Here are some suggestions to help lighten your meeting load, and help you better plan future meetings.

For Potential Attendees:

When you are requested to attend a meeting, before you say "yes," think about whether you belong at that meeting.

Ask what the goals of the meeting are, and see if your work goals are in line with them. If there are no definite goals, you do not belong at the meeting. No one does. If someone calls to see if you will come and "discuss interdepartmental issues," find out what specifics they will be bringing out. Only if you know the specifics involved can you provide initial meaningful input. The person calling may not know the answers to these questions. Have them connect you to the person responsible for the meeting content, or agenda.

Ask for the start time of the gathering, and also find out when it will end. If you are needed for only a portion of the meeting, set a specific entry and exit point with the person in charge of the agenda. That way you will not have to sit through 2 hours of preliminaries when you only have a 5-minute report! Find out about conference call options.

For Attendees:

Make sure you have the agenda in advance, so that you can bring the right information the first time. Do your homework.

Be early. Ten to fifteen minutes lead-time is plenty.

Leave your ego at the door. The meeting will be shorter.

Listen closely, take notes, and ask questions. You will not miraculously understand the following day what you are being asked to do in the meeting. Besides, someone else probably wants to know the same thing, but they are too scared to ask!

When the meeting starts pay close attention to the purpose of the meeting. You may discover that the focus of the meeting has changed and that you are no longer an appropriate group member. If this is the case, clarify your observation when the introductions come around. If your assessment is correct, simply apologize to the other attendees and take your leave.

For Meeting Planners:

Question specifically WHY this meeting is being held. If your boss says, "Pull together the marketing people for a sit-down," find out exactly what he or she wants to know, and jointly agree on who should be invited. If your questions appear odd, just remind your boss that you are trying to work as efficiently as possible.

Start meetings on time, even if only one other person is in the room. At least you can respect that person's time. If people are consistently late for your meetings, you might search for reasons for this behavior. I suggest that attendee tardiness occurs primarily for these reasons:

  • The topic is not really pertinent to them.
  • Your meetings are known to start late.
  • The meeting is scheduled at a time they cannot easily meet. (An 8 a.m. meeting on Tuesday after a holiday weekend is bad news. So is a 4p.m. meeting on Friday!)

Make sure the right people are invited. There is a temptation to include too many people to avoid "leaving anyone out." After you have decided on the MUST-HAVE list, you can send e-mail to any ancillary folk and let them decide; or just invite them to meetings covering their specific interests.

Distribute the agenda in advance. It shows that you mean business, and you are ready to entertain ideas and solutions. Include times for each item on the agenda.

Have a positive and tight format. Remember to K.I.S.S. -- Keep It Simple, Smartie! Ask an uninterested party if your agenda makes sense to them. Then ask the participants at the meeting what they need from future meetings, either in content or format. If you have built positive working relationships, they will tell you!

Don't be a talking head. Ask other attendees to present their information, in advance. Remind them, if necessary, to adhere to their specific topics for this meeting (including the time they are allotted!). Bring in experts if your meeting requires their skills to help formulate a plan or resolve a direction.

Stay with the topic. If people start bringing up subjects that do not belong in this meeting, let them know, politely but firmly that you need to keep this meeting on track.

Don't make people travel when a conference call will do the job. (Unnecessary traveling can be very upsetting!) If you need to see people to work with them, use a speakerphone for your attendees in the meeting room and set up a conference bridge for the rest of the group in remote locations. If there are several off-site people, consider having only one of them attend each meeting, and let the others participate by conference call. This way the burden of monthly travel on any one individual is reduced, and you still can reap the benefits of working with the entire team.

You could go one better and YOU travel to a remote site and have the call from there. That's right, YOU go to the Denver office from Chicago for a meeting. See what it is like to walk for one day in the shoes of other meeting attendees.


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