A leader once told me that he thought meetings were demonic. That may have been because of the fire he felt in his esophogus whenever he was preparing for one. Perhaps the following suggestions will help those who share his meeting anxiety.
Ten Rules for meetings
- Make sure you have a good reason for holding a meeting. Otherwise, don't.
- Clearly communicate the objective for the meeting before the meeting. Send it out with a request that any additions to the agenda be sent within a few days.
- Create and distribute a solid agenda, gathering suggestions from key parties.
- Thoroughly research everything you need to know for the meeting before the meeting.
- Have information ready before the meeting and accessible during the meeting. It is a good idea to send out pre-meeting packets to all participants asking them to prepare for discussion of key issues. If additions have been made to the agenda, send a revised agenda at that time as well.
- Determine how you will manage the flow of discussion and deal with "log-jams" ahead of time. Make sure all participants are in agreement ahead of time on process.
- Budget time for each item on the agenda effectively.
- Plan, discuss and assign roles before the meeting and make assignments with dates, times, deadlines, and accountability during the meeting.
- Stick with your agenda. Schedule another meeting for additional issues.
- Send out minutes as soon as possible after the meeting and allow for feedback using e-mail and blogs.
One Cheer for Meetings examines meetings in an academic setting. Notable among the quotes is "One of the things that has always most fascinated me about meetings is the agreement that must be already in place before the meeting takes place. Surely not, whatever else, including the arrangement of seating itself! And yet another of the things that has always fascinated me about meetings is that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted about them."
The Seven Sins of Deadly Meetings grows out of the experiences of large corporate cultures. Eric Matson lists the seven sins and then suggests "salvation" for each. He asserts that meetings continue to be vital when he says, "a business world that is faster, tougher, leaner, and more downsized than ever, you might expect the sheer demands of competition (not to mention the impact of e-mail and groupware) to curb our appetite for meetings. In reality, the opposite may be true. As more work becomes teamwork, and fewer people remain to do the work that exists, the number of meetings is likely to increase rather than decrease."
Always insightful, Seth Godin offers a fresh rationale and strategy for maximizing the effectiveness of meetings when you are being called upon by a sales representative. In "Going to Meetings" he says, "When a sales rep shows up for a scheduled meeting, it seems to me that you're not doing her a favor. You agreed to the meeting. You're getting paid to be there. You might as well get as much out of it as you can, right?"
After making some concrete suggestions, he concludes with this word, "When you treat your vendors the way you'd like your vendors treated, it comes back to you. It pays off. It gets you better information, better attention, better prices. You're a professional at your desk. You should be a professional at a meeting, too."
I think he is on to some of what I keep harping on - the Golden Rule, principles accentuated in the Proverbs, building a business or a ministry with the same commitments to integrity, compassion, and added value for all participants inside and outside of the business.
Meetings are as necessary spreadsheets - more so, because business, ministry, and life are all about relationships. Relationships require give and take comunication as two parties enter into a covenant to create a win:win scenario. Keep meeting, but streamline your meetings and do your best to make them more effective.