Managing information in meetings

14th October 2008

I was speaking at a conference for the Institute of Grocery and Distribution last week and was pleasantly surprised that the group asked about tips for managing information in meetings. This area is so vital to having productive conversations in meetings. Information is like the currency that gets exchanged in meetings, but it needs to be in the right format to be useful.

Last week I was facilitating a meeting with very complex subject matter. A lot of the preparation was in designing and preparing charts to help the group understand the interconnections between with different subjects. In the end we produced a large map which we used throughout the meeting to understand the landscape of the topic.

Often time is spent before meetings crafting slide decks that present information to the group without thinking about the interelationships between the different elements being presented.

When preparing for any meeting it is useful to go through the agenda and identify what information is going to be needed for each conversation and then through the best way to exchange the information in the meeting.

For example: in a meeting I ran for a group of regional sales managers, they had intended to update each other on their regions by presenting a short slide presentation each. This would have meant that most of the morning of their meeting would have been presentations. We designed an A1 template with key questions on it such as size of market, competitor activity, key challenges…. etc and asked each manager to complete this template in the meeting. This only look 20-30 minutes. The templates were then posted on the wall of the meeting and the group walked round reviewing the templates. We then had a facilitated discussion about the common problems that they were facing. The meant that most of the morning was spent having discussions about key points of interest, rather than just presenting at each other. In my view, this is a much better use of valuable face to face time in a meeting.