7 practical tips to make internal meetings more productive
We have all attended them, the meeting that rambles on with no clear focus or outcomes, where petty squabbles and side issues suck the energy out of the room. You may be asked to chair one of these meetings so here are 7 tips that will help you create a productive meeting that will deliver results.
Create a short agenda and circulate to all of those attending with the minutes of the last meeting plus any relevant documents at least 3 days in advance. The expectation is that everyone reads the documentation and so is ready to move through the agenda quickly. (I remember in one organisation, the Board were not circulated the minutes of the previous meeting so the CEO read them out, an exercise that wasted 15 minutes of everybody's time).
Important - all devices are to be left outside of the room. The idea of these meetings is to be short and focussed, ideally less than an hour. If devices are in the room they are a distraction, even on silent as any notification will draw the attention of the attendees. If someone says they are expecting an important call, exclude them from the meeting. There are very few circumstances where a call cannot wait for an hour.
The meeting starts on time and finishes on time. This requires discipline but people will learn very quickly that they need to be there 5 minutes before the start rather than be embarrassed by coming in late and that it finishes on time which they will appreciate.
The Agenda should be focussed with time allocated to each item. Be strong and don't let the time drift. If necessary say that you will either remove a less important item to accommodate this topic if something important develops or carry it forward to the next meeting. Updates can be in the format of what is going well and what help do you need.
Side issues and petty squabbles are frequent attendees at internal meetings. This is where you must take control and nip them in the bud. Remind attendees in the strongest terms that they are drifting off the subject and need to deal with these side issues outside of this forum. If it persists ask them to leave.
Agree clear actions and assign them to individuals. Do not let ambiguity put you in a position where at the next meeting someone is saying 'I thought that you were doing that'.
Finally, circulate the minutes of the meeting within 24 hours to each of the relevant parties.
You maybe thinking that attendees will not accept these rules but from 40+ years of experience I know that you will be respected for running a tight ship that delivers real results.