I spend much of my life in meetings. In fact when my role changed a few years back, my girls decided that my new title should be Meeting Pastor. Not sure how that works on a business card, but it certainly describes my activities! And when you spend that much of your life in any activity, you hope to make them as effective as possible.
Here’s a few tips I have found to maximize the meetings I participate in, whether I’m leading them or not:
- PURPOSE: When someone schedules a meeting, usually they have a purpose for coming together. Many don’t communicate that purpose. If someone asks you to attend a meeting but doesn’t make the meeting’s purpose clear, just ask. Knowing the purpose will help you be better prepared. It will also help you measure afterward whether the meeting was effective or not.
- PARTICIPANTS: You should also understand your reason for being in the meeting. Here are some great reasons to be in a meeting: to give or receive information, to offer input to a decision or decisions, to build relationships among a team.)
Special note regarding recurring meetings (monthly, weekly, etc.): If a meeting is scheduled on a recurring basis because it seemed like a regular discussion was necessary at the time, that purpose can sometimes be forgotten a few months or years later. If there’s a leadership transition, a new leader may “inherit” a meeting rhythm and not even realize why specific meetings initially took place. Bottom line: If a recurring meeting doesn’t have a clear and understood purpose, it will often feel like a waste of time, and may actually be one. If you’re expected to be in a recurring meeting, ask (in a respectable way) the leader of the meeting to help you understand the purpose of the meeting. Also, if that doesn’t immediately give you an understanding of your purpose IN the meeting, ask that next.
- Having an understood purpose for a meeting will help establish an AGENDA: the list of items for discussion that are to be covered in a meeting. Ideally, the agenda will be communicated in advance OR at the top of the meeting. That way everyone knows where we’re going in our time together. If you know that something that is important to you is item 5 on the agenda, you will be better able to participate in the discussion of items 1-4.
- NOTES: I personally choose to take notes in meetings where I am participating. These help me for future reference if I want to know what was covered at the meeting several weeks ago. My memory is no longer sufficient to keep all details in my head. Good note-taking skills prevent this from being necessary.
- ACTION ITEMS: Most meetings that I participate in produce one or more action items that will need to be done by individuals in the meeting after its conclusion. Ideally these should be written down by individuals who will be responsible to increase the chance that they will be completed. Some facilitators allocate a few minutes at the end of each meeting to quickly review action items that have come up to make sure everyone is clear on who will be responsible for their completion and by when.
I developed a simple tool that I use in meetings whether I’m leading or not. It helps reinforce good meeting disciplines. Feel free to download and use or modify for your own benefit. Download here. Leave me a comment below if this is helpful to you.