In a perfect world, every meeting would have specific objectives. The inability or unwillingness to establish required outcomes and action plans is the bane of many meetings. The meeting leader must emphasize the importance of the subject matter. The leader must also stress the importance of invitee attendance and participation. It’s also imperative that the meeting leader insists on punctuality. Nothing defeats the progress of a good meeting more than having to stop for interruptions and repeat information that has already been stated or presented.
Every meeting should have a stated starting and ending time. Since all meetings are “not created equal”, the meeting length should adhere to the purpose of the meeting. If the meeting is being held to collect ideas and brainstorm, it may go on longer. If, however, the meeting is to present specific options and make firm decisions based on them, the meeting may not last as long–assuming the participants have had a chance to review the relevant data, and have the authority to make decisions. For example, some meetings are called for the specific purpose of taking a vote without much discussion.
The question often arises about the best way to help attendees prepare for the meeting. Are leading questions given to the attendees before the meeting necessary, or is it enough to state the subject of the meeting? The leader has to assess each attendee’s knowledge of the subject matter presentation skills to frame relevant questions.
The meeting leader has to strive to obtain active participation by all attendees during the meeting. Human nature being what it is, specific individuals will dominate meetings. Also, there are those individuals who will not participate for a variety of reasons. These reasons include not being prepared or being passive in the face of more energetic and strident participants. Everyone must speak and make a meaningful contribution to the conversation.
Meetings are an absolute necessity in our modern interconnected world. The goal of meeting leaders is to reduce the waste and resistance associated with this vital human activity.