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2008-05-12 Making the Most of Meetings
Almost everyone has heard satirical references to meetings as events at which the minutes are kept while the hours are lost ! If you are a manager of any kind and if you feel the same about some of the meetings you attend, and you do not subscribe to the advice given here, which is evidently in lighter vein, then you would also not wish others, who may or may not be present at your meetings, to describe them with satirical references.
To make the most of your meetings, follow these simple rules:
1. Do not hold the meeting if an important stakeholder will not be present, a prerequisite to the meeting is not done or if you have prior information that will make the meeting ineffective. Reschedule.
2. Give advance notice to the Attendees by preparing an Agenda and sending out the Meeting Invitation - give sufficient time for Attendees to do their homework based on the Agenda.
3. Ensure that all Required Attendees have accepted the Invitation - if not, follow up using different means of communication and secure the acceptance. Else reschedule.
4. Ensure all resources required for the meeting, like the conference room and the projector, are available.
5. Start the meeting on time.
6. Stick to the Agenda and if all Agenda Items are done discussing before time, use the remaining time to discuss any other relevant topic. If there are no relevant topics, close the meeting before time.
7. During the meeting, keep a strict watch on elapsed time and use your authority as the organizer of the meeting to declare time-outs on discussions, in the interest of finishing on time. If a time-out occurs, either use your prerogative to conclude that particular discussion by making a decision by choosing the best alternative available at that time, or ask concerned members to do more study offline and schedule the discussion at a follow up meeting.
8. Take notes during the meeting - these include Issues discussed and Decisions reached.
9. To make any meeting effective, it is vital to note all the Action Items along with the Owner and Expected Closure Date of each.
10. Circulate the notes from the meeting - called Minutes of Meeting - to all Attendees as well as any other relevant persons, for their reference and action.
11. After the meeting, follow up with the owners of Action Items about their completion and closure. If the meeting reccurs at regular intervals, it is a good practice to begin every meeting with a review of past Action Items.
12. It is good practice to make all the documented 'Minutes' of a single project archived and available online at a central location (like the project wiki) for future reference.
13. Use a good tool to make this whole process as efficient as possible. One such tool is Yet Another Meeting Assistant (YaMA), an open source and free tool that I have written and use regularly. There are many others, take your pick.
Tags: meeting minutes tool YaMA
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