Meetings are not just eating and cheating.

Meetings are an unavoidable part of day to day work life. They ought to be constructive or they will be reduced to what one of my 1st bosses said “Meeting should not be all about eating and cheating”.

When my boss said this around 15 or so years back, i was puzzled. Seeing the quizzical expression on my face he said “Don’t u think so?”and continued “Aren’t meetings usually about quickly brushing through the agenda, and concentrating on the food served, and whether the meeting is followed by lunch etc and the most important point is only deciding the menu and date of next meeting?”

Unfortunately, what Boss had said then still holds true. Meetings are often about eating and cheating. More time is often spent on deciding the menu than on discussing the agenda items. So it becomes cheating as well.

However, the fact remains that Meetings are an indispensable part of working life. At one place decisions/information can be communicated to many. Ideas can be shared and exchanged. Plane of action can be arrived at. Stock-taking can be done. There are so many other positives which make meetings unavoidable. So lets have a look at what are the various aspects /points which can help to organize meetings in a more efficient manner.

First, have a clear idea on the agenda. Prepare a 1st draft, visit and revisit it several times, then make a final agenda. Communicate it in writing.

Second, decide the list of participants. This is very important. Visualize the need of the agenda, who can contribute and who can make it an effective meeting. Call all of them

Third, decide the venue. Make it a venue which is accessible and convenient to most. The venue should take into account the number of participants as well so that an appropriate size of the room is chosen.

Fourth, Convey the time, venue and agenda well in advance to all the participants so that they can note the date in their calendar and that they can prepare themselves for the agenda items.

Fifth, give a name and telephone number where regrets for non attendance can be given. However also emphasize the importance of the meeting in the original communication itself and that in case of non-attendance alternative participant may be given.

Sixth, One day before the meeting, have a telephone call made to all participants as a reminder. There is no ego about it. Its just a polite reminder considering that all are busy and for genuine reasons the meeting date may have slipped the mind.

Seventh, On the day of the meeting , if you are presiding over the meeting, Do check and and plan and mentally prepare your speech and how you will generally conduct the meeting . Check the physical arrangements , such as chairs, audio-visual system, cordless mikes and so on.

Eighth, Start the meeting on time. Nothing is more exasperating and punishing for people who come to a meeting on time and are made to wait for participants who are late.

Ninth, Keep the meeting focussed and to the point. Stick to the agenda. Request participants to switch cell phones off or at least keep it on silent mode.

Tenth, plan the tea break appropriately. If its a short meeting for say 45 or 50 minutes, you may consider having the tea break at the end of the meeting. However do ensure to keep drinking water in front of each and every participant.

Eleventh point is that plan the seating arrangements carefully and meticulously keeping in view seniority and importance of the participants.

Last but not the least, end the meeting with a positive note. Sum up the proceedings in a few sentences if possible and identify the action points for participants to carry out so that there is clarity. yes, fix the tentative date of next meeting- to be confirmed later in writing.

These 12 points according to me are important and need to be kept in mind while organizing and conducting meetings. Yes, everyone knows these, but I thought its better to keep them at one place, otherwise meetings will be reduced to meeting, eating and cheating.

Do You agree? Any points to add? Please feel free to do so.



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