Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ten tips for Conducting Effective Meetings

We all have been in meetings which are boring, too long, where other participants are poking their phones or even sleeping. This is partly because meetings are not conducted properly. Considering how many meetings we all attend every day, it is important to make meetings effective. Ineffective meetings could easily cost thousands of dollars to the organization (for ex, think about a team  of 6 meeting several times a week ineffectively) Below are some of the tips that could help in conducting effective meetings:
  1.  Invite only relevant people to the meeting - It is important to invite only relevant people. Non-relevant participants either would not pay attention to meeting discussion or distract the meetings. They would be better off doing some real work.
  2. Provide meeting agenda in meeting invite - This would help everyone to prepare for the meeting accordingly. This would also help participants to decide if the meeting is relevant for them and they can decide whether to accept or decline the invite accordingly.
  3. Set up ground rules for the meeting - This needs to be done at the start of the meeting. This could be format of the meeting, behavior during the meeting, no use of cell phones etc., Ask if everyone is ok with this or if they want to add their own.
  4. Discuss only things on agenda - During meetings, it is very easy to get distracted or get into too much details on one topic. Avoiding this or having the facilitator remind everyone when this happens is important so that meeting discussion is on track.
  5. Have a good communication link - Having everyone co-located during meetings is very rare these days. Even if there is no off-shoring, we often work with other teams in US. Make sure you have a good phone line or better a good video-conferencing facility, if your organization can afford it.
  6. Have short meetings - Short meetings are more effective. Attention span of participants might reduce as time goes by. 30 mins or 1 hour is a good time for meetings. If you need to have meetings beyond that, make sure you think about it and have a valid reason to do so.
  7. End meetings on time - Even if you have short meetings, make sure that meetings ends on time. Participants might have something else scheduled after this and it is important to respect other people's time. Many participants tune out or think about the next thing they are going to do, once meeting goes past the scheduled end time. 
  8. Communicate results of the meeting - Conclude the meeting with results of the meeting and mention if any follow-up meetings are necessary. After the meeting, document (text, word, wiki etc.,) what was discussed in the meeting and send it to everyone (even to people who have missed the meeting). This would help participants to go back later on and find out what was discussed in the meeting. It could also serve as input for subsequent meetings.
  9. Do not spread meetings throughout the day - Try to have meetings when team members are disturbed from their normal work anyway. Having back to back meetings or meetings concentrated in mornings or evenings leaves people some undisturbed time to work on their regular stuff. Programming needs concentration and every time people get disturbed, it takes time for them to get back on track.
  10. Be a good facilitator - Being a good facilitator is key and can make even dull meetings fun. Having good communication skills, understanding of the subject etc., make meetings relevant. One of the key thing is to make everyone participate and make sure that no one's view is neglected. Facilitation skills are not easy for technical guys but is important to focus on.
I'm sure there are other points that would help too. If you want to add more, feel free to add them as comments.

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