Conducting Meetings

Conducting Meetings

A meeting occurs when two or more people converse, usually at an appointed time, to discuss a particular subject.  People can meet using several methods.

  • Face-to-face – in conference rooms, restaurants, elevator rides
  • Telephone – conference calls, cell phone calls.
  • Internet Based – audio/VOIP, video conference, or IM and chat rooms
Quick Tip:  When having impromptu meetings (those in passing), remember the person you are talking to cannot read your mind.  Rather than jump right into your comment like, “I’ll get that to you tomorrow,” try adding a quick catch-up statement first. “Hey, about that spreadsheet you asked for … I’ll get that to you tomorrow.”
Step 1: Create an agenda
An agenda is an outline of discussion topics.  Your agenda should include what kind of meeting you are holding (e.g. weekly versus special topic), why you are holding it, and who is involved.  Ideally, agendas should be given to the attendees — those required to attend and those invited — at least 48-hours prior to the meeting.  This will give the attendees the opportunity to prepare for the meeting or respond to topics that may not need to be included in the meeting. Agendas are also useful in keeping meetings on track.
Quick Tip:  Your agenda should only list topic headings and subheadings.  They should not include any notes or details.
Step 2:  Schedule the Time and Location
In theory, this should be the easiest step; however, conflicts may arise.  If you continuously run into scheduling conflicts, consider shortening your attendee list, or changing your method.  For example instead of a face-to-face meeting, consider phone, video, or chat. Generally, meetings should be scheduled to start after the first hour of the workday.  This gives the attendees the opportunity to check messages and respond to any “fires” that may have arisen the night before.  Give the attendees an accurate anticipation of the meeting duration.  Also, consider time zones and common blocks of time such as lunch hour.
Quick Tip:  While it is considerate to consider co-workers’ schedules, it is their responsibility to manage it.  Make no assumptions about their ability to attend.
When choosing a location, select one that is neutral and convenient for everyone.  If the meeting is a lunch or dinner meeting, avoid presenting or sharing paperwork, particularly paperwork that requires immediate reviewing, in the same area as the food.
Step 3:  Hold the meeting
Start on time.  Never start a meeting early unless everyone is present.  Avoid starting late to be considerate of the attendees’ time.  Acknowledge latecomers with eye contact or a head nod, but keep the meeting going.  If a latecomer is disruptive, stop talking.  General the attention is enough to hurry them to their seats. To avoid side conversations, announce at the beginning of the meeting to save all questions to the end, explain that you are pressed for time, and ask to refrain from cell phone usage.
Quick Tip:  If you are experiencing side conversations during your meeting, it is alright to gently interrupt.  Try, “Excuse me, if I can have everyone’s attention.”
Step 4: Share the Meeting Minutes
Draft meeting minutes using the same outline as used for the agenda.  There is no set rule for when to send meeting minutes.  Anytime between 1 hour and 1 week after the meeting is sufficient.  For informative meetings, it is alright to have a delay in the release of minutes.  However, minutes from planning meetings require a shorter turnaround time.  It is good to release them within 24 hours to keep the information fresh and to allow participants to create schedule.
Quick Tip:  Meeting minutes are not your notes.  Minutes should only touch on the key issues.
Conducting meetings does not have to be nerve-racking. I hope that these guidelines and quick tips will help you plan and conduct your meetings smoothly.
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