Have you ever been in this situation?
(Email) Notice: Today we are going to have a meeting. We know that your time is valuable and we don’t want to waste time, so it is going to only be one hour. Please don’t be late and come ready to discuss the following important issues…
Later that day, in the meeting…
(15 minutes into the meeting) We are still just chatting about something random, like what we each did last weekend. Why are we having this meeting? The notice said we were going to only be here for an hour and that we are discussing important issues, but this has nothing to do with me or my position.
(30 minutes into the meeting) Okay, we finally started talking an issue that affects our organization, but we are rehashing the SAME EXACT POINT over and over and over. Can’t we just move on? Plus, isn’t this something that only affects three people in this meeting?
(45 minutes into the meeting) What are we talking about, again? Wait. Did they just bring up that SAME EXACT POINT again? Please, don’t talk about that for another second! I thought we moved on!
(1 hour and 15 minutes into the meeting) Me, checking my watch: Didn’t the notice say we were only going to be here for an hour?
(1 hour and 30 minutes into the meeting) Finally! We’re finishing up. I can go back and work on that grant that I need to finish by tomorrow.
(Walking back to office) Wait a second. Why did we even have that meeting? Did we accomplish anything? No? Why do we even have these monthly meetings?
What Went Wrong?
So, have you ever been in a meeting like the one I described above? I know I have. Actually, just last week I was in a meeting that I couldn’t figure out why we were all sitting there and I left just as confused as I came. Plus, the meeting was supposed to be one hour, and it lasted for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.
Unfortunately, too many meetings are unproductive. They take more time than necessary and don’t discuss the most pressing issues. Therefore, it is our job right now to create a plan for better meetings in your organization.
A Meeting Agenda and A Plan
This is definitely an issue, and luckily it can be fixed quite easily by taking the following steps:
- About a week before the meeting, whomever is in charge needs to sit down and decide exactly what issues they want to discuss. I would recommend only discussing up to 3 issues in a single meeting. These should be issues that affect at least the majority of the people who will be at the meeting.
- After you have decided on the topics of the meeting, create a meeting agenda. Here is an example meeting agenda: Meeting Agenda
- Email out the Agenda a couple of days prior to the meeting. Let people know that these are the issues that are going to be covered and that they should come prepared to discuss these topics, and these topics only.
- Put someone in charge of the minutes at the meeting. Have them keep track of how long you are discussing a certain topic, and ask them to keep the meeting on schedule.
- Give someone the task of taking notes on the issues, so when you leave the meeting, you can type them up and send them out to those who were in the meeting. This way people will understand what was decided, and what was important.
- After the meeting, send out an email with the information from #5 as well as with any followups that might be necessary. This can also be a time to allow for further questions in the emails.
Why is it important to take the previous steps?
Whether you are having a meeting for your executives, board members, or staff, it is always important to have a meeting agenda. A meeting agenda is simply a way to decide before the meeting how long you are going to spend on discussion, and what you are going to discuss. It is vital to keep every meeting on schedule to ensure that you are being productive.