Keeping meetings on track

25th September 2007

OK, so I haven’t been blogging much over the summer, but here I am back to offer some advice on how to prevent problematic meetings. I have been inspired to keep adding more information via this blog after reading a book on Leadership which had a section on meetings. It was full of the usual trite advice about starting and finishing on time, keeping to the agenda etc, with absolutely no practical tips on how to do this. So here is my first offering for keeping meetings on track….

When I am preparing for a meeting, the first thing I begin with are the Purpose, Outcomes and Outputs. As Stephen Covey would say, ‘begin with the end in mind’. All too often meetings are held without clarity and alignment of these things.

 
By PURPOSE – I mean the overall aim of the meeting. A useful question to ask yourself is, ‘what do I want to happen as a result of this meeting?’ or ‘what would happen if we didn’t have this meeting?’

By OUTCOMES – I mean the specifics of what you want to achieve in the meeting. The key to having good meeting outcomes is to make them as specific as possible. For example, if you want to generate ideas in the meeting, be clear about how many ideas you want to leave the meeting with, this will determine how you structure the discussions and make decisions.

By OUTPUTS – I means the documentation (electronic or hardcopy) that needs to come from the meeting. For example, if you know that the outputs from the meeting are going to feed into a report to the Board, then is useful to know they structure of this report. It is possible to manage the meeting documentation so that transfer of information into the Board report is a simple as possible.

If you start your meeting with clarity of purpose, outcomes and outputs, and share this with the participants, then you will be giving the group a clear sense of where the meetings needs to be heading. This target can then be referred back to throughout the meeting to keep you on track. For this reason I also recommend having the Purpose, Outcomes and Outputs recorded on a chart that remains up throughout the meeting.