Ground Rules for Effective Meetings

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Prior planning can go a long way toward creating an effective meeting.
Prior planning can go a long way toward creating an effective meeting. (Image: meeting image by Thorsten Frisch from Fotolia.com)

Company meetings can be a waste of time and resources if they aren’t handled properly. Distractions, time wasters and a lack of focus can all get in the way of productivity and prevent the group from meeting their goals. To ensure effective meetings that consistently achieve their objectives, set some basic ground rules to keep everyone focused and on task.

Set an Agenda

Going into a meeting without a solid agenda is a recipe for wasting time. If you don’t have a well-defined purpose for your meeting, consider whether you should be having a meeting at all. In some cases, a regular weekly or monthly meeting becomes habit, and these events continue to take place even when the information could be more effectively shared via a memo or other means of communication.

When creating your agenda, assign a time frame to each item that needs to be addressed. Clearly state the objectives of the meeting. This will give you a benchmark against which to measure the success of the meeting.

Prepare Attendees

For the meeting to be successful, attendees should be as prepared as the leader. Include a copy of the agenda in the meeting invitation. Paste this into the body of an email rather than including it as an attachment to increase the likelihood that attendees will review the agenda in a timely manner. If additional information needs to be shared with attendees prior to the meeting, you can include these pieces as an attachment.

Send out the meeting invitation, agenda, and other information as far ahead of time as possible. Give everyone at least two days to review the agenda and approach the meeting leader with proposed additions or questions.

Stick to the Schedule

Effective meetings must stick to the schedule. The meeting leader should arrive early and begin the meeting on time. If events are consistently started at the allotted time, with or without all attendees, the other members of the group will quickly learn to show up on time or risk missing the beginning of the meeting.

Assign a timekeeper other than the person leading the event. The role of the timekeeper is to gently remind the speaker when the allotted time for an issue has been exhausted. The timekeeper is also responsible for making sure that the meeting wraps up at least five or ten minutes before it is scheduled to end so that the attendees are able to get back to work on time.

Wrap it Up

At the close of the meeting, a few minutes should be devoted to reviewing everything that has transpired. Assign action items to members of the group and clearly state the deadline for these items. Schedule a time to follow up if necessary, or to continue the proceedings if the time limit left something incomplete in certain areas.

The close of the meeting is also an excellent time to address the high and low points of the discussion. If the meeting went particularly well, the group should take note of this and make an effort to repeat the actions that kept everyone on topic or helped to achieve the meeting’s goals. If improvements could be made, this is the time to take note of suggestions that can be implemented at the next meeting.

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