The 7 habits for higly effective meetings

Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.

  1. Obtain Written Agenda In Advance

Vague intentions to have a discussion on a topic rarely end on a productive note. If you are just getting started with agendas, start with a point form list of topics to be discussed and make sure that material is provided to attendees at least one day before the meeting. For better results, provide background information on the agenda so that everyone attending has the same information.

What about when you are asked to attend a meeting without an agenda? Ask, “Can you please send me an agenda for the meeting so that I can prepare?”

For frequently held meetings such as a weekly status meeting on a project, you can save time by creating a meeting template. Once you have that in place, preparing an agenda becomes a matter of filling in the blanks.


  1. Review The Attendee List

The people in the meeting room make or break your effectiveness. We all have been in many meetings where the key person – a manager or executive – is not present. As a result, no significant decisions can be made.

Meeting Organizers should limit the number of people attending the meeting. The purpose of meetings is to make decisions and get work done. For the most part, meetings are not the best way to simply share information.


  1. Manage The Meeting By The Clock

For manager of the meeting watching the clock is important in an effective meeting. When nobody takes charge of managing time, it is easy to become careless and unfocused. Remember – when people attend a meeting they cannot do anything else. Make the time count!

Meeting Organizers should start the meeting on time and end it on time (or a few minutes early!). This will quickly enhance your reputation as an organized person. If you are running a large or complex meeting, consider asking a colleague to serve as time keeper. If managing meetings to the clock is challenging for you, the parking lot habit will be a game changer!

Meeting Attendees should start by arriving early at the meeting (5 minutes for in person meetings and 1-2 meetings for conference calls). That means avoiding back to back commitments on your calendar whenever possible.


  1. Use The “Parking Lot” To Manage Off Topic Discussions

Frequently in meetings an issue will emerge that cannot be solved in this particular meeting. It can be off-topic item that cannot be dismissed directly.

To get meeting back on track, the chairman should pick the topic and put it to the Parking lot.

“Parking lot” is a helpful device performs two useful functions. First, it serves to keep the meeting focused on the stated agenda. Second, the parking lot acknowledges important points raised by attendees.

The Parking Lot habit must be combined with the Follow Up habit if you wish to be truly effective. Otherwise, the organizer is likely to gain a reputation for simply making a show of acknowledging other people.

As a meeting organizer, here are a few steps to use the parking lot concept.

  • At the beginning of the meeting, explain you expect everyone to focus their discussions on the agenda. Further, explain that this rule will help the meeting stay productive and end on time.
  • Keep the meeting agenda document in front of you as a guide.
  • Go through each agenda item
  • Monitor and contribute to the discussion

When someone raises an interesting point that does not relate to the agenda, say the following: “Thank you for that point, Tim. However, Microsoft Visual Studio tools go beyond the purpose of this meeting. Let me write down that item in the parking lot and I will include it in the meeting notes that I will send out by email so we can explore that point at the right time.”


  1. Prewire Important Points and Decisions

From time to time, major decisions will be discussed in meetings. It could be a decision on which projects to fund or which projects to cancel. Serious decisions like this require the pre-wiring habit. In essence, you communicate with people one-on-one before the meeting about the decision before the meeting occurs. While time consuming, this approach increases your chances of success (and avoids surprises other meeting attendees).


  1. Take Notes For Yourself

Taking notes in meetings is an essential skill yet very often people forget to do it. The key reason to take notes in a meeting is to record any questions or assignments that have been directed to you.

Take notes in a paper notebook rather than using a computer, tablet or other device. Even if you have fantastic abilities to focus on the meeting, other people may assume that you are “catching up on email” instead of paying attention to the meeting if you take notes on a computer.

Taking notes for Meeting Organizers: if you plan to send minutes or a summary of the meeting to attendees, say this at the start of the meeting and explain what you will include. Sending out meeting minutes, even a few paragraphs or bullet points, is a best practice.

Taking notes for Meeting Attendees: bring a copy of the agenda and use that document to guide your note taking. Focus on the decisions made in the meeting and items that require further investigation or action on your part.


  1. Follow Up On The Meeting

The art and science of follow up is vital professional habit and it also matters in the context of meetings. When it comes to meeting tips, following up in a timely basis is a great way to manage stress and make a good impression on others. For the best results, I suggest following up (e.g. making a phone call, writing an email etc.) the same day as the meeting. For very important matters, make a note on your calendar or task management tool of choice to continue following up until you reach a resolution.