According to humorist Robert Orben, the two biggest problems
in life seem to be making ends meet and making meetings end.
Often the concept of having a meeting means "open discussion
on several issues." Sometimes those who need to build
consensus on decisions do so by letting every meeting become
an information free-for-all. That's not to say that we should
become dictators or simply a live narrator of events at the
weekly staff meeting. But it is to say that all meetings are
not created equal.
it's up to the meeting leader to give a meeting far more forethought and focus
to accomplish objectives in an efficient manner. There are two basic planning
steps to accomplish what you intend in meetings: setting five-part agendas and
planning efficient methods from the variety of choices to exchange information.
|Setting Five-Part Agendas
First, the agenda. With each agenda item, try to include five things:
||the topic stated in question form
||the person responsible for leading the discussion
||the information relative to the issue
||the time allotted for that issue
||the action/reason/purpose of the exchange
For example, an agenda item might be listed as such:
"Should we exhibit at the IBAG trade show in May?"
/ Joanne / Statistics on Last Year / 10 min. / For Decision."
A second agenda item might be listed as:
"What should we include in our proposal for the FAA
project?" / Mark / Analysis of Strengths & Weaknesses on Prior Proposals
/ 20 min. / Brainstorming for Content."
A third agenda topic might be listed this way:
"How many leads did we generate from the Harcourt
mailing?" / Carole / Lead Generation Analysis / 5 min. / For Information
You'll be surprised how smoothly that 10-minute discussion will move once you
have a specifically focused issue, have the pertinent information at hand and
let group members know whether they're to make a decision or simply toss out
the pros and cons for someone else to sort through.
Planning Efficient Information Exchanges
Second, consider the variety of ways to exchange information.
Rarely does everything on the agenda deserve equal time and
effort. Your role as a meeting facilitator dictates that you
give forethought to efficient ways to exchange information
so that it's most usable to the right people without
wasting everyone's time on subjects of little interest or
|Here are a few suggestions for evaluating interest, exchanging
information and coming to decisions:
||Could you survey by show of hands (or member names or numbers
written on a card for the purpose of the meeting) and simply count and report
||Could you survey by show of hands/names/numbers and then ask
meeting participants to note the responses and make arrangements to seek
one another out for later private discussions or information sharing?
||Could you pose a question and have participants respond electronically
or in hard copy? Collect the ideas, report them, piggyback them or eliminate
the less-often-mentioned ideas?
||Could you pose an issue, state the "apparent" opinion/position,
and then ask those who have an "exceptional" situation/position/opinion
to speak up about those exceptions or objections?
||Could you post agree/disagree statements on the wall, pose
a question/issue and then ask meeting participants to stand beside their
response? Have each of the two groups quickly generate a list of reasons
for that opinion. Then call on one speaker from each side to succinctly
present its list of supporting reasons.
And how many times has your meeting group debated an issue without having the
pertinent facts at hand to come to a decision? Anticipate such situations and
set up the exchange of information to be followed by a panel of experts/representatives
who can provide necessary information at the START of the discussion rather
than after the fact.
Although there are several other methods to focus efficient discussion and
come to decisions, these few will save innumerable minutes of rambling.
Before the next meeting starts to wander off-track, remind yourself as of the
two most important preventative measures: five-part agenda and the properly
selected method of information exchange.
About Dianna Booher
Author/speaker Dianna Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants,
a Dallas-based communications firm. Her programs include communication
(writing, oral presentations, interpersonal, customer service
communications, gender, listening, meetings, conflict) and
life balance/productivity. She has published 39 books, including
E-Writing: 21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication
(Pocket Books), Communicate with Confidence! (McGraw-Hill)
and The Worth of a Woman's Words (Nelson-Word). Several
have been major book club selections. To find out more, call
817.868.1200 or visit her Web site at www.booher.com.
How to Keep Meetings
How to Finish a Meeting on Time