course of a meeting is determined before the group gathers, when
the organizer sends invitations that include time, place, and agenda.
To some extent, the format of a meeting determines the substance.
Meeting organizers who take these responsibilities seriously will
have an easier time leading a successful meeting.
One of the most important aspects of a well-managed meeting is a
carefully conceived agenda. Preparing an agenda isn't just a protocol,
it's an occasion to think about the purpose of the meeting and the
desired outcomes. Giving structure to the conversation helps ensure
that the time is managed effectively and that at the end of the
meeting, the group has made good decisions and is ready to accomplish
its next steps.
meeting organizers prepare two agendas: one is distributed to guests,
and the other is the organizer's key to keeping the meeting on track.
The public agenda lists topics, speakers, and allotted time. The
organizer's agenda also lists the things that must be covered before
people leave the meeting. As the meeting ends, people should be
aware of their next steps, that is, the work to be accomplished
before the next meeting.
a well constructed meeting can result in a lot of work getting done,
it's important to set reasonable goals for one gathering. The objectives
should be achievable in the time allowed. Be realistic when determining
how long the meeting should be, and take comfort and attention spans
into account. Most people can't give their undivided attention longer
than an hour and a half without a break.
place, right time
The choice of time and place is also important for ensuring that
the meeting is a success. For example, the room should be the right
size to accommodate the number of guests. If the room is too big
or too formal, or too small and crowded, those who attend could
become distracted. If clients will also attend, the nature of the
meeting should suggest whether it's better to hold the meeting in
house, on site at the client's offices, or at a neutral third location.
a time of day appropriate to what's being accomplished. If the meeting
ties together people in remote locations through technology, take
time zones into account. For example, first thing in the morning
is a great time for department meetings if one of the goals is to
get the day off to a good start; but it may not be a good time for
a brainstorming session unless you provide plenty of coffee and
doughnuts. Conversely, Friday afternoon may be a perfect time to
ask people to let ideas flow freely, but it may be more difficult
to reach decisions just before the weekend.
better to allow time between the end of one meeting and the start
of another, unless the guest lists are more or less identical. If
one meeting runs longer than scheduled, or even exactly as long
as scheduled, the guests are likely to need a break in between.
Meeting software makes it easy to send an invitation and an agenda
to everyone on the list quickly and conveniently. It puts the meeting
on your guests' calendars and can be set to remind them of the meeting.
And it makes it possible for your guests to retrieve the agenda
and handouts before they come to the meeting. Some meeting software
can even determine whether guests have conflicts to help you reschedule.
Unfortunately, not all organizations have meeting software, and
if some guests work at remote locations, meeting software may not
your guests about a week's notice for an in-house meeting, if possible,
sending the invitation via email or paper. Emergency meetings usually
must be called on short notice, and may not need a written invitation.
More formal meetings require written invitations and two to four
weeks' notice, or two weeks longer if guests are traveling. Meetings
of the board of directors or the shareholders may call for formal,
invitation should include an agenda, a list of those expected to
attend, and the contact information and deadline for the reply.
Expect your guests to send a reply to a meeting invitation as soon
as they know whether they're available. Track them down if necessary.
If resources permit, call the guests one day before the meeting
to confirm date and time, and to make sure they received the handouts.
Jo Schlegel, Editor-in-Chief