Dear Meeting Guru,

We've been trying to organize a marketing meeting in-house for almost two months, but there are constant scheduling conflicts among attendees. Since this meeting will consist of brainstorming, evaluating alternatives and decision making, is there a way to gather some of the info from people before the meeting? Can effective brainstorming be done by people separately and the messages sent via e-mail? I don't want to do it over a few days because I think people will lose their momentum or become distracted from their usual workday. Any ideas?


Blessed Meeter,

Asking participants to contribute their information before the meeting is a great way to improve the effectiveness of your meeting. Some people tend to ramble on when they're in front of a crowd. Asking them to provide feedback via e-mail will force them to condense their thoughts and solidify their position before they enter the meeting room. Gathering and presenting information in this way also helps people focus on the issue at hand, instead of being influenced by one or two vocal participants.

Try eliciting suggestions from relevant participants a week prior to the meeting. Once everyone has e-mailed you their ideas, send a second e-mail outlining each person's position and ask participants to evaluate their colleagues' suggestions before the face-to-face meeting. By the time you actually get participants in the same room, they have the information they need to make a decision, so you should be able to do so relatively quickly.

One danger with this meeting structure is that some people may not respond to your request. To overcome this, you have to make it very clear that only those people who respond to your request for information will be allowed to participate in the final decision-making process. Most people hate feeling left out when there's an important decision to be made, so this should ensure that you get full cooperation!

I'm impressed with the thought you've given this meeting and I hope that your colleagues appreciate your effort. As the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "The Superior Man cares about virtue; the inferior man cares about material things. The Superior Man seeks discipline; the inferior man seeks favors." In other words, by dedicating time and effort into conducting an effective meeting, you are superior. If your colleagues don't respond in kind, they are revealing their insuperiority.

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

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.




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