Managers often want to know some basic guidelines for establishing effective meeting agendas. It surprises some of these managers to hear that maybe a meeting isn’t the most effective way to spread information around the office in the first place.
Updates Versus Meetings
Let’s qualify that statement – if, as a manager, you simply need to update your staff on a new company policy or apprise your staff of a room change, that could probably be done in a brief report or through email.
It’s important to differentiate between two types of ends before getting started – are you looking to simply tell staff about an update? Instead, are you hoping to engage your staff in a back-and-forth discussion to hammer down a project’s particulars.
If the former, then you can get away with just sending around an email containing the update or conveying the information that your staff needs to know. If the latter, though, here are some steps to follow to ensure a meeting stays on-track.
Setting a Meeting’s Agenda
The 19th century inventor Thomas Edison noted that his inventions spawned from some problem. In other words, Edison’s inventions were solutions.
What is your meeting trying to resolve? Having a clear objective before the meeting starts is a great place for managers to start. The more concrete these objectives, the easier they can be tracked and measured.
Having an agenda in the forefront of your mind helps to keep the meeting on-track throughout, puts everyone on the same page, and makes it easier to determine the success or failure of the meeting weeks, months and years down the road.
A few examples of clear meeting agendas: have each member of the staff brainstorm one new possible feature of an underperforming product; find the best manufacturer in your area by pooling resources; or, seek ways to streamline ways to reach more customers regionally by asking for contributions from everyone on the staff.
Logistics of a Great Meeting
As a manager, you shouldn’t be bashful about making the end game of the meeting clear from the outset. Hand around a quick overview of the meeting’s agenda beforehand. In the agenda make it clear what you want discussed, the duration of each discussion, who the presenters are going to be, and how long each discussion will approximately last.
The Who, When, What and Where. You need to email your staff the time, place and basic goal of the meeting. Find out from staff how many of your team members are going to make the meeting and make sure that everyone understands his or her expected contribution going into the meeting.
Respect for Time. Make sure that you block out enough time for each presenter, but be realistic about how much time to allot for each topic. Once you’ve done this, put all the presenters names, their discussion topic, and the expected duration of each phase of the meeting into a simple table and hand that around with your meeting’s printed agenda on the day of the meeting itself.
Set the Meeting’s Scope. You should only have one call to action at the end of the meeting. This call to action should be aligned with the meeting’s agenda.
If, for example, you want to find out the best ways to market a current product, and you’re getting questions about another issue entirely, shelve the latter discussion for another meeting or see if you can work that concern into the current meeting’s agenda.
It’s more important to stay on-task and respect everyone’s time than try to find a solution to every issue the company faces.