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Conducting Effective Meetings – Part 1 – Develop your style and rules (#1 in the series Conducting Effective Meetings)
By Tom Carlos (PMP)

As a Project Manager, your experience tells you that “communications” (in various forms) consume a large portion of your time. “Meetings” are a common form of communication activity and in many instances, unavoidable. I have worked with many individuals who appear to be “tied up in meetings” for most of their day. Many of these same people echo the sentiment of “that meeting was a waste of time.” This is an indication that the meetings were ill-planned, poorly run, and had no distinct purpose.

Given the fact that most people can view meetings as a negative event, you should be aware of the various activities required to conduct an effective meeting.

Part 1 – Develop your style and rules

Develop your style

Establish your personality: Even though you need to “take care of business” (and thus maintain order throughout this entire process), make sure you counterbalance this with the right blend of humor. Your personality should not be seen rigid or impenetrable by others.

Creating a “standard”: You must set a “standard” that will be met in the meeting. You should be consistent and set expectations as to how meetings will be conducted.

Develop your meeting rules

Roles and Responsibilities: Identify the role and responsibilities of team members and those who are attending the meeting. You should also set the tone for “who is in charge” (but do it subtlety).

Do not tolerate tardiness: Some people are habitually late. If this is the case, take them aside (after the meeting) and try to understand and correct the problem.

Never repeat agenda items: Why should you reward late comers by reviewing what has already been discussed? Conversely, why should you punish those who arrived on time by making them hear items already covered? Repeating agenda items not only cuts into valuable meeting time but it shows that you cannot control a meeting (and the participants).

Phone calls: Do not allow your participants to take phone calls during a meeting. Whether the phone rings, or vibrates, chances are that incoming calls will disrupt the meeting. And let’s not forget that while this attendee steps outside the room, they are not participating in the actual meeting and thus missing out on critical discussions.

Food, Refreshments, etc: Many consider food and refreshments as a thoughtful gesture, especially if the meeting is lengthy. But keep in mind that liquid spills, overturned food plates, and constant trips to the refreshment table can lead to disruptions. So if you plan on refreshments, perhaps you should add some premeeting time to the agenda for “refreshments and mingling.”

Tom Carlos has over 20 years of cumulative experience in business, technical, and training environments. He is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and member of the Sacramento Valley PMI Chapter. For other articles on similar subjects, you can visit www.carlosconsulting.com or contact him at tom@carlosconsulting.com.

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