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The business world seems to spin on an axis of meetings -- but not all meetings are productive. Invest time in planning a productive session to make sure your meetings get the job done. Give careful thought to what you need to accomplish and who should participate.
Determine Objective and Audience
Set an objective for the meeting, and make it brief and clearly stated. For example, create a short list of bullet points describing specific goals. The goal of your meeting might be to communicate important information, make decisions, resolve problems or assign actions. A concise and to-the-point objective helps the meeting organizer determine who should participate in the meeting. Build out a list of invitees by aligning each goal with team members whose presence will make it possible to actually meet the goal.
Set the Agenda
Set the meeting’s agenda based on each goal in the objective. If a goal is to communicate the start of a project, set an agenda item that identifies who will present that information and how the information will be shared, such as by PowerPoint presentation. If the goal is to assign actions, set an agenda item that describes how assignments will be made. Every goal should have one or more agenda items aligned directly with it.
Select the Date and Time
Select a meeting date and time based on the availability of the meeting leader and the most critical invitees. The larger the list of invitees, the harder it is to find a day and time when everyone is available. Accept a time that fits as many schedules as possible. Before setting the time, give thought to time zones. If some invitees will participate by phone or the Internet, consider their working hours as well as your own. A 1 p.m. meeting in Eastern Standard Time is a lunch-hour meeting in Central Standard Time. That same meeting is at 2 a.m. in Tokyo.
Choose the Location
Find a conference room that will make it possible to achieve all agenda items. Choose a room large or small enough to comfortably fit the number of people expected to attend. A room that seats 40 is a poor choice for a meeting with 10 people. Likewise, you don’t want a crowd squeezing in so tight it’s necessary to bring in extra chairs.
Arrange for Materials and Incidentals
If presentations are expected, make sure that the room is equipped with a projector. If not, make arrangements to bring a projector with you -- also make sure you have something to project onto, such as a screen or a white wall. Don’t forget to consider the availability of other incidentals, such as white boards with dry erase markers, flip charts and speaker phones for off-site participants. For multi-hour meetings, arrange for food and beverages so participants stay focused on the topic rather than their stomachs.
Notify invitees of the meeting objectives, date, time and location well enough in advance so they can prepare properly. In most cases, at least a week’s notice is preferable. Use the workplace’s calendar software to send a meeting appointment to all invitees. Many programs will alert invitees a few minutes or a few days before the meeting, or customize the alerts to your needs.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.
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