#569  Innovative Leader                             Volume 12, Number 1        January 2003

The ABCs of Managing a Meeting

by Donald L. Caruth, Ph. D., SPHR and Gail D. Handlogten-Caruth, SPHR

Dr. Caruth and Ms. Handlogten-Caruth are human resource management consultants  in Rockwell, Texas (caruth@flash.net).  They are authors of Managing Compensation (and Understanding, Too) (Quorum Books, Westport, CT, 2001). 

Nothing is as ubiquitous in corporate life as meetings. In some organizations, so it seems, a person could spend his or her entire working career going from one meeting to another and feel as if he or she has never accomplished anything resembling work.

Some wag once said, ďHalf the time spent in meetings is wasted. The only problem is that we havenít identified which half it is!Ē Meetings, however, donít have to be wasteful, nonproductive events. They can be turned in to effective undertakings by following to the ABCs of meeting management.

A - Assign timekeeping responsibilities to someone at the beginning of a meeting; a timekeeper helps the meeting stick to its time line.

B - Begin the meeting on time; it is the best way to begin.

C - Calculate the costs of meetings; it may deter you from meeting unnecessarily.

D - Donít permit distraction or diversions.

E - End the meeting on time; it is the best way to end.

F - Follow-up on all assignments made during the meeting; make certain the work is being done in a timely fashion.

G - Grade the effectiveness of each meeting. What would have made it more productive?

H - Hold the meeting standing up; this speeds up deliberations enormously.

I - If the purpose for holding a meeting is not perfectly clear in your mind, donít hold it, it wonít be clear to anyone else, either.

J - Just holding a meeting because it has always been held is a poor excuse for wasting time.

K - Keep an eye on the time; it has a way of getting away from you if you donít monitor it.

L - Limit attendance to only those people who really need to be in attendance.

M - Minutes of the meeting should be distributed as quickly as possible after the meeting is over.

N - Never hold a meeting when memos or telephone calls will accomplish the same purpose.

O - Organize agenda items so that the most important ones are covered first.

P - Prepare and distribute an agenda in advance.

Q - Quickly summarize the results of a meeting at its conclusion.

R - Remember, successful meetings donít just happen: they have to be planned and managed.

S - Stick to the agenda; it is the roadmap for a successful meeting.

T - Time phase every item on the agenda; e.g., 15 minutes for Item A, 10 minutes for Item B, etc.

U - Unscheduled business should not be discussed; put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

V - Value the time of each meeting participant; do not waste it.

W - Work, work, work. There is no short-cut to having a productive meeting.

X - eXhibit genuine concern for making every meeting effective and efficient.

Y - You cannot run a productive meeting without an abundance of advance preparation.

Z - Zealously keep discussions on track and in focus.

Stop wasting meeting time now! Put the ABCs of meeting management to work for you and see the difference it can make in your organization.

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