Top 10 list on how to have successful meetings

Today I had three meetings, two of which were internal. The external meeting involved both two external trainers and a customer, and this was the only meeting where all were in place on time and well prepared for the questions and thoughts on just what the meeting was about … To say I love meetings might be a bit excessive. Meetings are important and often necessary, but sometimes tend to be both slow and just as often flutter away from the subject that it is all about … This is a collection of rules I try to set for meetings that might be helpful for you as well.

1. Be there on time (Do not waste other people’s time with being late)
I usually begin to prepare myself a quarter before the meeting, do not take any phone calls that can drag on and ask colleagues with questions to please allow me to come back after the meeting. If everyone knows about these rules, the practices becomes even easier by hand! It’s very annoying to sit ready and waiting for someone who is ”stuck” on something. I also have other things that maybe are sometimes more concerned for me, but I respect that we all set aside time for this particular meeting agenda.

2. Be prepared!! (Be well-informed and have all the relevant documents with you)
It is often more the rule than the exception that someone have to run to the printer, retrieve the computer, etc. I’m not sure if it’s because I have kids, but then you see to it that everything is in order (preferably the day before, particularly if you’re set for a meeting early in the morning!)

3. Go there only if you must (- Why do you participate? – What do you expect to get out of it? – What do you contribute?)
Often it is a certain group that receives a meeting invitation (and sometimes just because no one should feel aggrieved). Don’t accept the meeting if you do not feel you can contribute something in the particular subject that is to be discussed. You probably have other things you’d rather give priority and we who are active in that particular subject saves time instead of having someone participating that just wants to show that they are “in” every topic in the company!

4. Be engaged! (Participate actively)
Quite often I participate in teleconferences and it is not seldom, you’re not even aware that someone who participated were actually there before but reading the meeting minutes. See my thoughts on the point above! These days the telephone might have been replaced by Skype so at least you see an icon for everyone, but even so… be engaged or don’t accept the meeting request!

5. Listen carefully! (Do not waste time by not listening properly to what is said)
If we assume that those who are invited to the meeting has something to contribute then it is not only unprofessional not to listen, it is also very foolish given that you can never influence something that you are not familiar with!

6. Stick to the point!
Make sure your posts and comments concern the meeting’s key issues and not just an excuse to demonstrate how smart and clever you are. If you just open your mouth to point out obvious things, picking on people to show that you know more, and similar behavior it doesn’t contribute to the meeting at all. All you do is to let people who are more withdrawn (but still might have really good ideas) become silent. Such a behavior is devastating to everyone’s creativity!

7. Summarize shortly (Say what you want and no more)
Read – ”my time is as important as yours, do not waste any ones time!”

8. Be polite!
Do not interrupt others, no matter how much you dislike the opinion expressed. Wait until the person has stopped before you add to the conversation. This is something I need to get better at. I sometimes get very restless when I feel that long-winded outlays does not add anything. However, I’ll try to do better!

9. Discuss topics, not individuals.
Very important! Do not let your opinion about a particular person affect your thoughts if his/her work. Very difficult sometimes, but it adds nothing to the meeting and it just makes you look bad if you attack a specific person. Focus rather on the subject!

10. Be precise! (Note the actions, set deadlines and follow up)
My favorite! How can we conclude anything unless there is a clear finish, or in any case a measurable target where one can evaluate! I’ve attended numerous meetings where I had to que in ”and when is the deadline for…”

I hope this list can be of help to you as it has been for me! Good luck in your future meetings!

This article is authored by Tobias Strandh, Microsoft Alliance Manager at Soprano Oy


Tobias Strandh

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