Overview

"Meetings are the great killer of progress." -Unknown

Meetings suck... At least sometimes. But often times they are really needed to get everyone on the same page and to realign to the goals we are trying to accomplish. Furthermore, a well-executed meeting can make quite a difference to your business. Most of the groundwork is done before you even walk into the room. However, although people are aware of how crucial the planning phase is, they tend to evade it to a large extent.

Perhaps it's the lack of time which is to be blamed. Who has the time to go through everything related to the meeting? Why not take it one step at a time? The thing is, this approach can have a detrimental effect on your reputation as a leader. In fact, it can even demotivate your employees.

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The Bad Meeting

Haven't you often heard people commenting how a meeting could have been avoided and the matter dealt with via email? Not to mention, no one likes to have their time wasted, least of all your business partners and employees who already have a ton to do.

Extensive meetings with no clear goals and flow only make the attendees irritated and stressed. As a result, hey keep thinking about how much they could have accomplished during the period. But, it is vital to conduct meetings periodically to foster creativity and encourage cooperation among team members.

So what's the solution? The trick is to give adequate time to plan the meeting. You have to ensure that no one steps out of the meeting room feeling as though their time has been wasted. As Benjamin Franklin famously said,

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The Art Of Planning A Meeting: All You Need To Know!

First things first, you have to be clear about the purpose of the meeting. This will make planning for it a whole lot easier.  Some of the most common reasons that justify organizing a meeting include

  • Announce a significant change in the company's policy or a new initiative
  • To brainstorm for ideas to create something new
  • In order to point out the problems and challenges and look for solutions
  • To start a new project
  • To give employees a new set of expectations, they need to work on

Before planning a meeting, you have to ensure that you indeed need one. If the conference's goal can be accomplished without getting everyone on the table, it's best to avoid it. If you are confident that the meeting will be beneficial for your business and has a clear-cut purpose, it's time to get down to planning.

"As a leader you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional -  your organizational rhythm should value purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency." -Chris Fussel

Work On A Preliminary Agenda

When it comes to planning a meeting, if you want to ensure that the meeting flow is smooth and not all over the place, you have to plan the sequence beforehand. Allocate time for an introduction to ensure that everyone present at the meeting has a clear idea of what it's about. Decide how much time should be given to the discussion and the order in which you want things to proceed.

Keep one thing in mind: People will lose focus if the meeting goes on forever. So try to get the most out of the meeting within a fixed duration.

Decide About The Participants

Naturally, not everyone needs to be a part of the meeting. You have to figure out who among your team will play a role in fulfilling your goals. Who will be affected by the decisions made in the meeting? Figure out the people who have the knowledge or skills to take part in the discussion actively.

You also have to decide on the size of the meeting. It depends on the goal. For instance, if the meeting is being held to solve a particular issue, it's best to keep it small, including around eight or so people at the most.

On the other hand, if you intend to brainstorm ideas, the meeting can hold as many as 20 people. Include only those people in the meeting who absolutely have to be there. This will ensure that your company's productivity isn't affected.

When planning a meeting, the idea is to have to invite as few as people as possible. This will ensure an engaging meeting, where everyone's voices are heard and everyone gets exactly what they need to get out of the meeting.

Decide The Roles To Be Given To Participants

Naturally, you will want everyone to be engaged and focused in the meeting. The best way to do so is to assign specific roles to each participant when you are planning the meeting. How? You can make one the facilitator who will ensure that the discussion proceeds in the right direction and all vital points are covered.

One person can be entrusted with the responsibility to capture key ideas and distribute notes. Give someone the responsibility to keep a check on time. A contributor can ensure that the discussion does not run around in the same circles.

And make sure that the meeting includes an expert too who can share his knowledge on the issue.

Decide On The Time And Place For The Meeting

The meeting space is also vital for the flow. Surely, you wouldn't want the meeting room to be too small for all the attendees. Or be too big such that it becomes difficult for people at the other end to follow the proceedings.

If you want the meeting to have an informal tone to it, you can select a small room for the purpose, setting up chairs in a circle. Similarly, if the meeting is formal, a conference room will be most suitable (if available).

Make arrangements for equipment needed for the meeting. You have to ensure that no one faces an issue while hearing or participating in the meeting.

Notify About The Meeting Beforehand

Everyone who is scheduled to be a part of the meeting should know its purpose beforehand. You can drop it in an invite via email or text message. Make sure that all the relevant people know about the meeting well in advance so that they can prepare their schedule accordingly.

If you want the participants to know about something beforehand, ensure that pre-reading material reaches them on time. Don't forget to make it clear that all participants have to review this material for the meeting.

Test The Required Equipment

A lot of meetings require productivity tools. Ensure that the arrangements are made in the meeting room for the same. Furthermore, don't forget to test all the tools in advance to make sure that there are no last-minute issues.

All your planning will prove to be futile if technology fails you at the last moment. Therefore, ensure that everything is working perfectly. You can even seek help from experts who can handle the equipment.

Decide The Decision-Making Approach To Follow

When it comes to planning a meeting if the purpose of the meeting is to make decisions, you have to determine which decision-making method you intend to follow.

For instance, do you intend to consider the majority's opinion, or will the leader's choice be given the most value? This can save valuable time.

An great leader considers all viewpoints, and chooses what is best for everyone. And sometimes that means choosing contrary to the majority. There is a saying that good leaders make decisions on 70% confidence. Meaning, if you are 70% confident about something being the right path, choose that.

At the end of the day, there are always pros and cons to every decision, and if you wait around for the "100% sure" choice, nothing will happen... Because there is never a "100% choice".

Keep The Employees Engaged

Can the meeting really be considered a success if the employees aren't actively participating in it? Surely you don't want the attendees to be yawning or staring into the distance for most of the meeting. So you have to figure out tactics that will keep them engaged. Here are some tips:

  • Start the meeting with the good news that will serve as an ice-breaker. You can ask the attendees to share some good news about the business, setting the right tone for the meeting.
  • If your company has weekly meetings to maintaining productivity, keep the members engaged by rotating facilitators. The change in style will make people feel more involved.
  • Challenge the team to brainstorm for ideas and get their insight about the issues that have to be solved. This will ensure that everyone remains alert. Furthermore, encourage everyone to share their opinions.
  • Ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time. Avoid deviating from the agenda. It's easy to get distracted during discussions. However, you must ensure that the meeting proceeds with a goal and does not deviate from it. Your intention should be to complete the session within the time decided.
  • Try to make the meeting more fun and interactive. You can be quite creative for this purpose. Of course, you have to adhere to your company's culture and values. But that doesn't mean that you can't make it more enjoyable. Give the attendees something to look forward to in the meeting, which will keep them motivated.

Get Started With The Planning Now

Do you want to ensure that you don't miss out on anything while planning the meeting? Well, prepare a checklist that will have all that you need to do. Abraham Lincoln undoubtedly emphasized on the importance of planning when he said,

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." -Abraham Lincoln

You have to decide the purpose of the meeting. Determine who should be a part of the meeting and when and where it should be held.

Figure out how much duration should the meeting last? What are your plans for food or snacks? How much do you intend to spend for the meeting? These are some questions you will have to consider if the session is with some new clients or partners.

Ensure that the attendees know what the meeting is all about. To do this, send out the invite in advance and provide them with any pre-reading material if needed. Check all the tools and equipment beforehand to prevent technology fails.

Remember, organizing a successful meeting isn't something everyone can manage. But remember your issues can be solved with a little bit of effort.

Catch you on the flip,

-Noah

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