The 2018 Perfect Meetings Checklist
A quick Google search of “meetings checklist” generates an almost endless list of blog posts, articles, web-pages, and other online resources. The plethora of information criticizing and arguing for fewer and better meetings shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Both business leaders and workers concur that many meetings are a waste of time. Consider just a handful of recent article titles in business publications …
INC.: “Why 99 Percent of All Meetings Are a Complete Waste of Money”
Harvard Business Review: “Stop the Meeting Madness”
Entrepreneur: “Too Many Meetings Suffocate Productivity and Morale”
The Economist: “Tortured by Meetings”
Despite widespread agreement that many meetings are a drain on productivity and employee engagement, no business is going to do away with them. They continue to remain a key part of every organization. So, what can be done to mitigate the detrimental effects of meetings while setting up successful outcomes? The good news is that there are tangible actions that organizations can follow to improve their meetings. And while not every meeting is a perfect one, you’ll achieve darn good ones by following a simple checklist:
Determine Your Meeting Type
One of the very first steps to scheduling a meeting is to determine the meeting type. While it is possible to identify countless meeting types, for the sake of this blog post, I’ve included the most predominant:
- Status Update
- Information Sharing
- Decision Making
- Problem Solving
- Team Building
Identify the Right Participants—and Define Their Roles
Identifying the right participants for a meeting is critical. While nearly all employees contend meetings drain their productivity and waste valuable time, they ironically get twisted out of sorts if they are excluded from one. Thus, get ready for the backlash if you suddenly start cutting back on meeting attendees. In these cases, it is best to educate employees beforehand on your new meeting approach and why the number of participants have been reduced.
Using a model such as DACI (decision-maker, approver, contributor, informed) helps you determine who should be involved in a meeting. It also establishes ground rules for meeting participants who sometimes usurp other roles, creating indecision and turmoil.
Create and Communicate the Purpose and Agenda
Failing to create and communicate the purpose for a meeting and its agenda beforehand is a sure way to set the meeting up for failure. Participants want their time valued and will go to a meeting much better prepared and engaged when they know the objective and anticipated outcome for the meeting as well as what—and when—each topic will be covered.
Assign Pre-Meeting Preparation (when appropriate)
While not appropriate for every meeting scenario, assigning pre-meeting actions to attendees helps drive engagement and generates a more focused purpose for the meeting. Examples include preparing feedback on a draft proposal or idealization on a problem that needs to be solved.
Finding and Selecting the Right Meeting Room
You can set the stage for a highly successful meeting but completely flail with the wrong meeting space. For small businesses without permanent offices, this means identifying and vetting a rented conference space. The same is true for any business hosting a meeting in a location where they do not have an office.
Even for small businesses with permanent office space, their conference room may not be the right venue for certain meetings.
In the case of anyone thinking of hotel meeting rooms, think again. The spaces are often noisy and the cost is twice as expensive as a rented meeting room such as one from Davinci Meeting Rooms. You can also carefully vet each room through 3D videos and photos and review the list of business services that accompany them—from lobby greeters, to food and beverage catering, to presentation tools. You can even review and book rooms using your Android or iOS mobile devices, something that is particularly useful for those who aren’t always in front of their laptops or desktops.
Identify a Moderator, Secretary, and Timekeeper
Even if you have multiple presenters, it is important to assign one person as the moderator—a meeting facilitator who keeps everything on track, resolves disagreement, gets things going when the discussion gets stuck, and identifies next steps and action items. Just as important are the secretary, the person who scribes the minutes of the meeting, and the timekeeper, who helps ensure the meeting stays on focus and everything gets covered in the allotted time frame.
Ban the Use of Laptops and Smartphones
It is hard to compete with the attention of meeting participants if they are multi-tasking on their laptops and mobile devices. Thus, participants should be banned from using them during meeting time. At the same time, if the meeting is lengthy, you should set aside time to allow participants to catch up on work-related issues during predetermined breaks that are built into the agenda.
Separate Meeting and Eating Time
Those who try to cram more into a meeting agenda by combining eating time with meeting time typically fail. While eating, everyone makes small talk and “digests” meeting topics. During meeting time, participants are focused on the discussion or presentation at hand—something that is difficult to do while also eating.
Reserve Final Time for Action Items, Takeaways, and Next Steps
There needs to be a coalescence of the discussion and presentations at the end of the meeting that results in a list of action items, takeaways, and/or next steps. Rushing through these items and failing to get agreement from the meeting participants on each of them is a mistake too many make. Successful results can only occur if there is a clear roadmap of ensuing actions. And failing to resolve disagreements between participants can result in inaction or post-meeting behaviors that undercut desired outcomes.
Send a Follow-Up Summary
While meeting participants logged their own notes during the meeting, sending out a follow-up email that summarizes key points, takeaways, action items, and next steps is pivotal. It also serves to drive home the final points of discussion covered at the end of the meeting.