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Conducting Effective Meetings – Part 2 – Planning and Preparation (#2 in the series Conducting Effective Meetings)
By Tom Carlos (PMP)

Planning and Preparation

Planning

Define your goals and objectives for the meeting: A meeting without a “purpose” is a recipe for disaster. This is the most common reason for unproductive meetings. Make sure you define the purpose of the meeting and select agenda items that will help you achieve the desired results. You should also include the goals and objectives on the agenda (in the top section that contains meeting information).

Solicit agenda items: In addition to the agenda items you wish to cover, solicit input from team members and other stakeholders. Others will have valuable input to be shared and incorporate into your project.

  • Make sure the agenda items chosen for discussion are relevant
  • Coach the presenter and know what they will say (avoid surprises, that can be embarrassing)
  • Make sure the agenda item can be discussed within the given time frame (and this includes open discussion and questions for the other attendees)
  • Anticipate the results from the discussion (anticipate were the conversation will lead)

Select an appropriate room: Select a location that will accommodate your group comfortably. Make sure that everyone can see the white board or projection screen. Climate controls must be adjustable and working. Extreme heat or cold can lead to participants being uncomfortable and thus inattentive.

Determine the meeting length: Never forget that team members are busy and have other commitments. You should keep the meeting as short as possible. This will help ensure attention and will force you to “work the agenda” in a timely manner. Each agenda item should list the amount of time allocated for discussion.

Select the start and finish time: Select a time that works best for the majority of the meeting participants. Be careful when it comes to meetings that are scheduled for either 8:00am or 1:00pm. Chances are participants will use one of the following excuses for being late (or falling asleep).

  • Too much traffic this morning
  • I am not a morning person and thus not awake
  • I was unable to return from lunch on time
  • I ate too much for lunch and ready for a nap.

You should also be aware of finish times. Make sure you account for other meetings, lunch breaks, or the end of the work day.

Pre Meeting Activities

Prepare the agenda: Determine if you will use handouts or an electronic presentation (such as MS PowerPoint™). The meeting participants should have something to view during the meeting. Agenda’s can be prepared from the prior meeting’s minutes. You can use one template and simply rename it. At first, it can be used as the Agenda. You then update that document and it becomes the meeting Minutes. You then clean out the entries and that document then serves as the baseline for your next agenda.

Memorize the agenda: As the meeting facilitator, you must know what is on the agenda, be familiar with the handouts, and be able to anticipate what could happen in the meeting.

Determine the invitee list: Unless you have a team that is required to attend every meeting, carefully examine who needs to be present and send them a meeting invitation.

Distribute the following items: Try sending these out well before the meeting.

  • Minutes from prior meeting
  • Agenda for this meeting
  • Documents that will be reviewed during the meeting

Designate a note taker: Assigned the task of “note taker” to someone who can focus on recording the meeting and not have to worry about being a participant (and thus be strayed from their main objective). The note-taker must learn how to filter out non-critical discussion items versus key activities, action items, and decisions made.

Assign a time keeper: It’s always a good idea to designate a time keeper- someone who will monitor the agenda and make sure you stay within the prescribed time frame for each agenda item.

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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