This Page to a Friend
Trainers & Consultants
Training & Meeting
Calendar of Events
Met: Making the Most Out of Meetings
By Kelly Cullison
I attended a "project status update" meeting yesterday; let me
describe it to you. The meeting had been scheduled two weeks ago for 9am. Six
people were scheduled to participate (including the moderator). One of the
invitees was 10 minutes late because he couldn't find the right room. Another
never showed up (he may still be wandering around looking for us). Four were
actually on time, including yours truly. The meeting kicked off at 9:14, after
typical office banter had been exchanged. Two of the participants debated the
purpose of the meeting for about 7 minutes. Another left to get a soda...you get
the picture. The point is, this was a very bad meeting. My time is valuable;
please don't waste it with poorly planned and executed meetings. That said, what
could have been done to make this meeting productive?
If You're the Moderator
if a meeting is really needed. This seems obvious, but do you really need to
convene a meeting to present a status update, or would a memo suffice? Hold
meetings to solve problems, not as update forums.
your list of attendees. Do they all need to be present? Attendance and
productivity seem inversely related - the more attendees you have, the less
productive your meeting will be.
with all attendees the day prior to the meeting, especially if the meeting
was arranged several days in advance. Provide them with the time, location
and directions if necessary.
the meeting appropriately. Some ideas:
it before lunch or quitting time to eliminate unnecessary discussion and
encourage participants to focus on the task at hand.
the meeting for an odd time, such as 4:13. Strangely, this
seems to improve punctuality.
wait for latecomers, unless they are critical to the start of the meeting.
not only the starting time, but the ending time as well.
the meeting far enough in advance to allow participants to
plan their schedules.
an agenda to keep the meeting on track. Distribute the agenda in advance, to
allow participants to prepare appropriately. This prevents debates about the
purpose of the meeting. The agenda should cover
the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, why.
an action plan at the end. An action plan ensures the meeting
will be productive. Assign responsibility to specific people and give them
due dates. Distribute the action plan to all participants.
When You're Not the Moderator
your attendance. Is your presence needed? If not, inform the moderator and
spend your time doing something more productive.
location and time the day before the meeting if the moderator
has not done so.
focused on the discussion; do not stray to topics outside the scope of the
In general, the same rules apply, but here are some additional tips to
it's important to be on time, try not to arrive too early. This implies that
you have time to waste.
busy while you are waiting; this communicates the message that
you have things you need to be doing. Plus, you'll get stuff done!
wait more than 15 minutes, unless you feel you absolutely must.
If 15 minutes have passed, try to reschedule the meeting with your contact's
Online meetings via communications programs such as Microsoft's NetMeeting
or real-time messaging systems have some unique differences.
meetings tend to eliminate gender and age boundaries, encouraging people who
would not normally speak up to do so. This is a good thing!
the flip side, online meetings can allow people to hide, or lurk, in the
shadows. The moderator should monitor participation and encourage all
participants to share. Periodically check with lurkers by sending a private
message (known as a "whisper"). Make sure they are following the
discussion; they may need clarification on a point before they feel
comfortable posting a comment.
you're the moderator, regulate the pace of the conversation. You may need to
jump in if conversation lags, or recap portions of the conversation to allow
participants to catch up.
systems provide a whiteboard, use it! A whiteboard is a great way for
sharing drawings, or keeping a list of issues that come up during the
meeting. Assign one person, a scribe, to keep track of "follow-up
issues" on the whiteboard.
Meetings can be good things (really) if handled properly. With a little
foresight and planning, your meetings can be productive uses of your time to
help further your and your clients' success.
(c) 2000, Kelly Cullison is a Birmingham, AL-based
virtual assistant and the founder of Atlas Virtual Services. Atlas provides
a wide range of administrative support for small businesses so entrepreneurs
can focus on the core functions of running their businesses. Visit Atlas at
or email mailto:[email protected]
this page to a friend
top of page