Make your meetings more productive and action oriented

I hate meetings!!! I hate the never ending, no decision, waste of time meeting!!!

Are you among the millions of people who dread going to meetings? Why are meetings so terrible? What can you do to make the meeting much, much better?

When asked to chair a meeting, or a panel discussion, or roundtable, what is the first thing you should do?  I first determine what the purpose of the meeting will be and decide on the 3 objectives, in order of priority. But being the chair does NOT mean that I am a participant…, it means I am the conductor and as the conductor — much in the same manner as an orchestra conductor wanting every musician to play beautifully— my job is to assure the meeting has a clear, agreed upon agenda, starts AND ENDS on time, and every participant has equal time to participate.

The meeting begins with the first email. That first email is the famous “first impression” and it is the beginning of a positive, inclusive dialogue that gives the participants a chance to contribute to the design of the meeting. It also establishes you as the leader who is responsible for final decisions, and yet the emphasis is on the participants and their ideas and input.

All the logistics need to be presented through that first email. When it will be held, at what time, where, what kind of venue, the start time and ending time, and a list of potential participants to be considered and why they are good candidates. It should also include the theme/focus of the meeting, panel discussion, or roundtable and 3 objectives of the meeting in order of priority and make it clear that if the event completes the 1st objective, then the meeting is a success. If there is time, and the 2nd objective is completed, bonus! Same with the 3rd. You want to encourage feedback by telling the participants their perspectives are required in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the meeting, and to “reply all”, so everyone can see and maybe be inspired to new ideas for the meeting. Give them the deadline of just a few days from your email to reply…, infuse a small sense of urgency.

Then, the day after your deadline, reply with a synopsis of the replies, refine it and give them the second draft of the agenda, and ask for their final feedback with again, just a few days from your email. Once you receive the 2nd reply from everyone create the final draft and send it to everyone.

The goal is to present the most applicable, best possible event for the participants and in the case of a panel discussion, the audience. So, give your meeting every chance to be successful  with that positive, first email. Set the tone, let your “musicians” tune up, and prepare them, and yourself for a positive, productive meeting.