Dear Meeting Guru,

I am the project manager on a team of 11 people that is required to lead a 'mandatory' weekly status meeting. The meeting is scheduled for the same time, same day for the rest of eternity – but there is no commitment to the meeting. The two team leaders often schedule conflicts or decide not to come – as a result team members feel no obligation. When all are in attendance, meetings are often only 45 minutes long and are the only time the entire team is ever together! How can I (without support of the team leaders) get people to make the meeting a priority?


Blessed Meeter,

The first thing you need to recognize is that an effective team needs effective meetings. Your group needs to realize that a weekly meeting is not just a way of filling in time, but a vital forum for communication.

Your team should feel that the meeting is a valuable use of their time. In order to convey that, you should work on your meeting preparation. First, define a goal for the meeting. If you donít set an objective, there is nothing to accomplish! Once youíve defined your goal, create a meeting agenda. Your agenda should cover:

topics for discussion
presenter or discussion leader for each topic
time allotment for each topic

A well-prepared agenda should communicate the importance of the meeting and give participants an opportunity to prepare. Try to schedule a diverse group of speakers (including chronic non-attendees), and get their feedback on topics, time etc. before you finalize the meeting agenda. People are less likely to brush off a meeting if they have played a role in the planning process.

Make sure that team leaders are aware that their presence is vital. Itís a waste of everyoneís time if decisions have to be postponed until key people can be consulted. If a team leader has another commitment, postpone or reschedule the entire meeting. (Hopefully this will send a clear signal to leaders indicating how important it is for them to attend.)

If at all possible, you may want to consider meeting monthly rather than weekly. It sounds like a weekly meeting is too much for this team. You could also consider changing the time of your meeting. The best times to meet are 9 a.m. (before everyone is immersed in their work) and 3 p.m. (once the after-lunch grogginess has worn off).

To summarize, here are some simple, easy-to-follow and proven guidelines that should be followed each and every time your group meets. Print this page. Hang it on your meeting room wall. Write the guidelines on a poster. Memorize them by heart. Do whatever it's going to take to improve your meetings!

1. Only hold a meeting if necessary.
2. All meetings must have clear objectives.
3. Invite a neutral facilitator to sensitive meetings.
4. Prepare a comprehensive meeting agenda.
5. Circulate meeting information to all participants before the meeting. This should include objectives, agenda, location, date/time, background information, and assigned preparation items.
6. Always start on time.
7. Ensure participants are prompt, prepared, concise, and constructive.
8. Record meeting notes and store them in a meeting archive.
9. Document group decisions.
10. Assign, document, and follow up on all action items.

Review the overall meeting effectiveness, and try to apply tips to your next session.

Good luck, and donít be afraid to challenge the way your meetings have been held in the past. After all, as the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "The man of wisdom is never in two minds; the man of benevolence never worries; the man of courage is never afraid."

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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