Dear Meeting Guru,

"Our CFO is a meeting addict. He calls meetings 2–3 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?"


Blessed Meeter,

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 questions:
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 convenient time.
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-by-step guide:

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 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 a CFO!)
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.

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



Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.




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