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Managing Meetings
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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As a manager, meetings are an integral part of your job. Roughly, one-third of your workday is consumed by meetings. Yet there is a method to managing the whirlwind of meetings you face every day. With a little preparation, you can learn to make your meetings what they were truly meant to be: beneficial.

Being Prepared Makes a Difference: You can schedule all the meetings you want to, and if you are not prepared to take charge then you're wasting your time. The time you invest planning a meeting is time well spent. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can enjoy the fruit of a productive meeting.

Focus on the following factors when planning a meeting:

  1. Purpose. Before you schedule a meeting, determine its purpose and necessity. Document specifically what you expect to accomplish during the meeting (including goals and objectives). A clearly written plan allows you to focus solely on the issues you need to address. Next, determine whether this purpose can be more efficiently achieved by some other means, such as a phone call, a written memo, or an informal conversation.
  2. Size.Keep the size of the meeting as small as possible. The larger the group, the more complicated communication becomes and the more garbled the purpose may get. For example, with a group of two, there are two communication channels, add a third person and six channels have been created. With each additional person, the number of communication channels increases expedientially.

When selecting participants for the meeting, consider the following criteria:

  • expertise in the topics
  • contribution to the discussion
  • pre-existing personal conflicts
  • need for new information
  1. Time. Select a time to meet when participants are most likely to be punctual and attentive. The most productive time is generally early morning, after employees have had a chance to drink their morning coffee. The least productive time is usually right after lunch or towards the end of the day when other work remains unfinished.
  2. Length. Set a specific time limit on meetings, ideally a maximum of 1 ' hours. Get into the habit of starting the meeting on time, regardless of attendance. If you wait for late comers, you penalize present attendees, and encourages tardiness. Adjourn the meeting at the appointed time, even if all items on the agenda have not been completed. You can always reconvene at some other time.
  3. Agenda. At least one week before a meeting, develop the agenda and send it to expected participants. The agenda must clearly indicate:
    1. the meeting's starting and ending time
    2. location of the meeting
    3. items (goals) to be covered and desired outcomes (objectives)
    4. items listed in priority order
    5. time planned and scheduled for each item
    6. preparation expected of participants
    7. the person responsible for presenting each item

People usually plan an agenda backwards, placing the most important item last and the minor items first. However, you must plan the agenda the opposite way, by placing the most important item on the agenda first and the least important items last. This way, if you run out of time, you will have covered the crucial topics.

Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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