Meetings: they’re the proverbial cockroaches of the business world. No matter how hard you try to get rid of them, they just won’t die. So you might as well face the facts-those pesky conference room gatherings won’t be going away any time soon. So what can you do?
Don’t exterminate-participate! Perhaps one of the reasons why some (OK, many) professionals hate daily, weekly, or monthly gab-sessions so much is because the participants don’t do their part to help make those sessions run more smoothly, accomplish more objectives, or seem more interesting. In short, it’s easy to sit back and blame the person who called the meeting for running it into the ground. But a successful meeting depends on the positive participation and resources of all involved. That includes you and me.
“If all you know is what you don’t want to see in a meeting, this negative focus is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” writes Eli Mina in The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings (AMACOM, $29.95). “To make a good meeting happen, you need an affirmative vision of what it looks like and a set of principles and criteria with which to measure its success.”
Below are Mina’s 10 essential components of a successful meeting.
Ingredient #1: Clarity of mandate, purpose, issues, and process. When it comes down to it, every meeting should have a meaningful reason for being called. In addition, all the participants should have a clear understanding of what the session is supposed to accomplish. Items on the agenda should be critical to the purpose of the meeting.
Ingredient #2: Order and decorum. “Start on time, end on time,” should be the motto of every meeting. To help regulate the conversation flow, only one person should speak at a time, using courteous and appropriate language. Other members should be attentive, careful not to interrupt, and committed to tailoring comments strictly to the issue(s) being discussed.
Ingredient #3: Productivity and forward movement. One of the biggest complaints about business meetings is how long and drawn out they often are. Remember that time is truly money, and a good meeting won’t take up any more time than is truly necessary to accomplish agenda goals.
Ingredient #4: Flexibility and creative thinking. While meetings should be structured and orderly, they shouldn’t stifle a free exchange of ideas and new ways of thinking (with regard to the issues on the agenda).
Ingredient #5: Quality decision making. Meetings are primarily a mechanism for making decisions, whether about company policies or procedures. Therefore, the decisions that result from any given meeting should always be: logical, wise, and responsible; reflect courage and visionary thinking; be made only after examining their impact in the short, intermediate, and long terms; and solve problems at their core, not just offer fast fixes.
Ingredient #6: Openness, listening, and collaboration. What’s the point of attending a meeting if your mind is already made up about a given topic? If the session is to meet its objectives, all participants must come with an open mind and the willingness