Monday, July 16, 2012

Run Effective Team Meetings

“Why work when you can attend a meeting?” That’s a common cynical comment heard in the hallways of many organizations, and reflects the fact that most of us either volunteer or are compelled to participate in a seemingly endless barrage of meetings throughout our work week. For your next team meeting, objectively evaluate it for the following characteristics of effective, productive meetings:

1. Have an agenda. This may seem obvious, but many meetings meander along in a rudderless, undirected fashion – apparently without set objectives or goals in mind – so that at the end of the session, there was much discussion but little actionable progress.

2. Assign a facilitator. This person is responsible for setting up and implementing the meeting logistics (meeting invitations; adjustments to meeting schedule; rounding up stray participants) and may be asked to lead the meeting discussion as well.

3. Ensure that meeting participants are engaged. Said differently, be sure that the participants are required and have a purpose for attending! Ideally, anyone in the meeting has a speaking role or subject matter that they are prepared to talk about.

4. Monitor the discussion and participation to ensure that the agenda isn’t dominated by one or two individuals. Make a point of asking for input from the quiet members of the group who may have trouble breaking into the discussion on their own.

5. Stick to the agenda so that the specific objectives of the meeting are addressed and accomplished. Meetings can be great environments for brainstorming and creative thought for some individuals. It’s important to not unintentionally smother that creativity, so ask that items tangential to the main discussion topics be captured for subsequent exploration in a different venue.

6. Account for the participants joining via conference call. Meetings including geographically dispersed team members, who will be joining the discussion by telephone, require special attention to meeting etiquette: minimizing side-bar conversations, modulating speaking volume or asking speakers to move closer to microphones, asking callers to mute phones when not speaking, asking callers to identify themselves when speaking, etc.

7. End the meeting on time. Recognizing that everyone is busy and constrained by other commitments is an important way to gain the good will of participants in your meetings, and ensures that they’ll be willing to accept your next meeting invitation.

8. Record and promptly distribute action items and meeting notes. Ensure that the participants get a written record of the outcome of the meeting and associated assignments. Without this memory jogger for everyone’s reference, it becomes very difficult to hold participants accountable for completion of follow-up actions.

To learn more tips and techniques you can use to become a better and more successful project manager, check out PSMJ’s Ultimate Project Management Manual.

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