Organising and Scheduling Effective Meetings

By | September 27, 2014

The number of people attending is an important consideration when organising a meeting.  Too many people and the meeting is likely to take far too long, too few people and commitment from interested parties not attending may not be forthcoming.

As a general rule, up to eight is ideal.  It is worth considering whether all members need to attend for the whole meeting, particularly where numbers are high.  Where some people need to attend parts of the meeting the agenda should be organised to accommodate this unless doing this would adversely affect the structure of the meeting.

Other tactics can be employed e.g., setting up sub-meetings prior to the main meeting to address some items in advance so that only one member of this group needs to come to the main meeting.

To ensure involvement and possibly avoid any unpleasant surprises, chat to each member individually prior to the meeting.  This will provide useful insights and also they may be willing to raise points at the meeting thus ensuring shared responsibility

Most meetings go on too long.  Two hours is about as long as normal concentration will allow.  Meetings planned for a longer duration should include a break for refreshment and fresh air.

Even formally chaired meetings work more effectively in equal status arrangements e.g., no desk, members seated in a circle, importantly no interruption by calls, emails and texts.

When the purpose, time, location, duration and members of the meeting have been established, think about the pre-meeting paperwork.  The agenda, which is the key document, and any reports, papers etc that members will be expected to read should be circulated two to three days beforehand indicating any pre-meeting action to be taken.

Brief agendas do not necessarily create brief meetings, in fact the opposite is often the case.  Imprecise agenda points only serve to confuse or mislead, resulting in unprepared members.  The more precise agenda items are, the more items can be covered because everyone is prepared, ready to respond and act.

Use a Structure like PAT and SATT below

Purpose –        What is the purpose of the meeting?

Agenda –         What issues do we need to cover?

Time –             What are the start and finish times?

And

Summary –      Gain consensus while everyone is there on the joint understanding of what has been agreed or decided upon.

Action –           Who is doing what and by when?  Get assignments put into diaries and schedules not just “To Do Lists.”

Tell –               Who else do we need to tell?  What is the “best” way?  Who is going to do it and by when?

Time –             Of the next meeting or communication to the group so progress is monitored and shared.  Plan and schedule the work and the event now while everyone is together.

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