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All about Meetings

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MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE MEETINGS. Honestly, I’m one of them. They say they are boring, go on too long, and don’t get anything done. And often that’s the truth. So to have a good meeting, you need to make it interesting, keep it on track, and make sure something gets done. Here are eight steps toward making your next meeting a success.

1. Make sure you need to have a meeting. Meetings are needed when a group of people must be involved in an action or a decision. DON’T SCHEDULE A MEETING JUST BECAUSE IT’S TIME TO HAVE ONE.

2. Set a goal for the meeting. Be very clear about why you’re having the meeting, and what needs to get done or be decided. Break that task into steps, or divide the discussion into sections—that’s the agenda for your meeting. At the start of the meeting say, this is our goal, and if we can get this done, the meeting will be a success. At the end of the meeting remind them that you achieved your goal. This lets everyone leave feeling successful, and they’ll be glad to come to your next meeting.

3. Put decisions to the group. The participants own the meeting. Let them set the agenda before the meeting, or at least add to it when you begin. If decisions need to be made about the process (whether to end a discussion that’s going too long, for example) then ask that question to the group.

4. Stay on schedule. Remember that every minute a person spends in your meeting, they could be doing other things. They’re with you because they’ve decided your meeting is important, so treat them like their time is important. Start on time and end on time!

5. Pay attention to what’s important. Set a certain amount of time for each item on the agenda, based on how important it is. If the group starts spending a lot of time on details, ask them “Is this what we want to spend our time talking about?” A lot of details can be worked out by individuals or committees—meetings are for the decisions that need to involve the whole group.

6. Keep the meeting on track. Your agenda is the tool you use to make sure you’re on time and on the right topic. When side issues come up, help the group get back on track. If the issue sounds important, check with the group. “We’re talking about a new issue—is this something important that we should take time to discuss?”

7. Make sure people participate. People think a meeting is useful based on one simple thing: whether or not they talked. So everybody should have a chance to share their ideas. It’s okay to ask specific people what they think! You should also be prepared to gently remind people when they’re talking too much.

8. Have good facilitation. The facilitator is the person who runs the meeting and acts on all the steps listed above. It’s a big job, and it usually doesn’t fit well with participating in the discussion. So if you need to have your views heard, let someone else run the meeting! Good facilitation doesn’t just happen—it’s a skill that comes with training and practice.

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