Our five golden rules for a successful meeting
In our post on 9th March, we looked at the top five skills all project managers should have. Number five on our list was being able to manage meetings. Because well-run meetings are such a vital part of a project’s success, we said we’d look at them again in a future post.
So today, we’re going to look at how you can make sure your meetings are a success.
The professional meeting goer
Many of us go to so many meetings it can seem like that’s all our job is. An endless round of agendas, minutes, background papers, reports, coffee, biscuits and hoping you’ll be able to park.
Will your morning meeting be over in time so you can go back to your office before your afternoon meeting? How many of the people who were in your last meeting will be in your next meeting? How many people do you only ever meet in meetings?
What are all these meetings for?
But, however much we may moan about them, we do need meetings. They’re a key part of how we share information, make decisions and keep a project moving forward.
Meetings can also be the only time different people involved in a project get to see each other. So they can be an important way to keep partners connected and involved.
How to make sure people come to your meetings
When people are confident that your meetings are relevant, useful, well run and overall a good use of their time, they’ll come to them. And, perhaps more importantly, they’ll keep coming.
This is key, because consistent commitment and participation from the right people is one of the things that will help your projects succeed.
So take a look at our golden rules for how to run a successful meeting. They’ll help your meetings succeed and, as a result, help your projects succeed too.
Our five golden rules for successful meetings
1. Make sure you invite the right people
Only invite people who are involved in the business of the meeting, can contribute to it and make decisions – or who have a direct link to those who can. This is particularly important with public sector organizations where the decision-making process can have several layers and be complex.
Generally, for a meeting to be effective no more than 12 people should be part of the core group. However, from time to time you may also want to invite people who you need to hear from or who need to hear what you’re discussing.
2. Plan the meeting carefully
When you’re putting the agenda together make sure you stay focused on a clear outcome (or outcomes, but not too many – see point about timing below). Think about what the meeting needs to decide, discuss and hear about now. If something doesn’t require immediate action or isn’t clearly relevant, leave it for a later date or don’t include it at all.
Show whether each agenda item is for decision, information or discussion. As people are usually more lively and creative at the start of a meeting, put items that need mental energy and clear heads at the top of the agenda. However, it can also be helpful to put items of significant interest and concern further down the agenda. This can help people get over the natural attention lag that happens about 20 minutes in to a meeting.
It’s also worth thinking about the impact agenda items will have on the group. Some will bring people together while others can create a divide. The order in which you include these items will make a difference to the whole atmosphere of the meeting. For example, it is worth ending the meeting with an item that creates consensus so that people leave on a positive note.
3. Time the meeting carefully
Set a time for your meeting and stick to it. And try not to let it last longer than two hours. Meetings that go on too long become less effective.
Include the start and end time on the agenda as well as the timing for each agenda item. This will help keep people focused and prevent the meeting from overrunning.
We all hate lengthy meetings that go on and on so doing this will help people look at your meetings in a positive way and encourage them to attend regularly.
4. Set the right tone
You, or the chair, need to set the tone for the meeting from the start. Make sure it’s purposeful, focused and energetic. However, you also want people to feel comfortable and able to contribute so make a conscious effort to include everyone and allow some time for a more easy-going approach.
The right tone also relates to what happens outside of the meeting. So make it clear you expect people to prepare, to turn up on time, to participate and to carry out actions they commit to.
5. Follow-up the meeting properly
Once you’ve held your meeting send the minutes to everyone promptly, preferably within a week. Include the actions you agreed on and the names of the people who will carry them out.
Minutes also help people who weren’t at the meeting catch up on what was discussed and agreed. If necessary, get in touch with them in person to share what happened and discuss any particular issues with them. This will show they were missed and encourage them to stay committed to the work of the group and attend next time.
Well-run meetings are particularly useful when you’re managing multi-agency projects. They can bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t meet. They can help to define the partnership. And they can help people to understand both their collective aim and the way in which they and others can contribute to and influence this.