|Dear Meeting Guru,
"Our CFO is a meeting addict. He calls meetings 23 times
a week and they can last for hours mainly because there are so many
participants and there is no formal agenda. Or if there is an agenda,
they somehow get way off track. His group is starting to dread a
meeting before it starts for fear of missing lunch and even dinner.
How can I help him be more organized?"
Dealing with an ineffective meeter
can be challenging at the best of times, but a nightmare when it's your boss!
Luckily I've devised an emergency four-step recovery plan for ineffective meeters.
I suggest that you forward a copy of this plan to your CFO to help him along
the road to recovery.
Step 1: Reduce the Number of Meetings you Schedule
If you're having too many meetings that fail to actually accomplish anything,
you need to cut back. Before you schedule another meeting, ask yourself the following
||Has a goal been set for the meeting?
If there's no specific purpose for meeting, don't do it. Send an e-mail
instead. Everyone will appreciate the reprieve.
||Has an agenda been created ahead of time?
You must create an agenda and distribute it to participants a few days before
the meeting. Without an agenda the meeting inevitably gets off track and
you end up accomplishing nothing.
||Will the appropriate people be attending?
If relevant decision-makers are unable to attend, you're not likely to make
real progress. It's better to cancel the meeting and re-schedule at a more
||Could the information be covered in an e-mail or memo?
If the purpose of the meeting is sharing information or giving updates,
send a memo or e-mail instead.
Step 2: Create an Agenda Every Time
Creating an effective agenda is one of the most important elements for a
productive meeting. The agenda tells participants which topics will be discussed,
who will be presenting each topic and the time allocated to each section. It's
essential that you prepare and distribute an agenda before the meeting, so participants
have time to prepare. To learn how to create an effective agenda, follow our
Step 3: Keep your Meeting on Track
Once you've prepared your agenda, the next step is to actually stick to
it! If your meetings tend to wander off track, try this tip provided by an EffectiveMeetings.com
subscriber in St. Louis:
"When a great idea comes up in your next meeting
that isn't directly related to the topic at hand, don't let it go. Instead,
jot it down on the nearest whiteboard or flip chart. Select a title for the
ideas written on the whiteboard, such as 'The Parking Lot' or 'The Issue Bin.'
At the end of the meeting, address the ideas you've written only if you have
time. If the ideas are worth addressing but you've run out of time, schedule
another meeting to discuss them. Don't discuss these 'parked' ideas during
the meeting or even between agenda topics. If you attempt to address them
during the meeting, you will run overtime!"
Make sure you stick with the allocated time limit for each topic. If you start
to go over, wrap it up and move onto the next topic. You can always schedule
another meeting if there's more to discuss, but if people are just debating
for the sake of it, a firm time limit can force people to make a decision.
Step 4: Conduct a Meeting Cost Analysis (this is a great suggestion for
If you really need help breaking an excessive meeting habit, try calculating
the cost of your next meeting. Once you've seen how much money is wasted during
an ineffective meeting, you'll be reluctant to ramble on for three or four hours
at a time! Our Windows-based cost calculator runs live during your meeting.
You start the calculator at the beginning of the meeting, and it tallies the
total cost of your meeting on a per-second basis. To order a free cost calculator,
click on the following link:
In my capacity as a Meeting Guru,
I've helped many meeting addicts break their addiction. Have your CFO follow
this plan and he'll be well on the road to recovery. I admire your desire to
learn more about meetings. As the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "To
study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." Good
luck in passing your newfound wisdom on.
may good meeting karma always be with you!