Effective MeetingsMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
Meetings are the important part of any project or managerial operations. No matter what stage the project is, there is always some meeting related to that. Unfortunately meetings are considered, especially by junior level resources, as some additional activity with no real value or output and just waste of time. One of the reasons for such assumptions is that the meetings are not conducted in their true sense and thus are not as effective as they should be. Other than that, the Senior Management behavior is not really at the required level as their attitude and interest is important to set up an atmosphere and guidelines for the other resources, especially reporting directly to them.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with a company which had a very healthy culture towards the meeting. They always took the meetings very seriously and made sure to take steps in order to make the meetings as effective as possible. I learned many things from them to make the meeting more effective and am sharing some here;
The most important information regarding any meeting is the meeting’s Agenda. It summarizes the areas that will be focused during the meeting. A well defined agenda always helps in building the interest and right level of expectations of the participants. This allows the participants to make the right pre-meeting preparations thus bringing in the relevant discussion points, questions and material to the meeting. It also provides an opportunity to add any point which was originally missing in the agenda.
Based on the meetings finalized Agenda, a reasonable amount of time should be allocated. The meeting should start and end as per the allocated time. I have seen some meetings which continue indefinitely after the original end time This practice is something that really makes the meetings “Useless” and “Waste of Time” as the other activities and assignments of the participants get affected badly.
In case more time is required to conclude the discussion of a certain meeting, the best way to go about it is to schedule another meeting but should not change the timeline of the meeting in progress. This is very important, especially for senior management, who quite frequently have back to back meetings.
Following fix timelines also helps the participants to share the relevant information and other material to other participants prior to the meeting. This practice allows the participants to attend the meeting in a much better prepared manner and avoid unnecessary discussions.
Sending out a meeting invite with all the relevant information in a timely manner is as important as the meeting itself. The Agenda, Meeting Time, Meeting Location, Participant Information and any other Instructions related to meeting are very critical. Timely invites means that the participant not only has a better opportunity to prepare effectively but also meeting invite, saved in a personal calendar, allows for any adjustment to the personal schedule and also provides the response in case any change is required or regarding the availability.
Similarly it is important for the participants to respond to the Meeting Invites as quickly as possible so the Meeting Moderator can make any changes to the meeting Agenda or timings etc. in case any important or critical participant is not available.
Role of Moderator
Role of the moderator is by far the factor that sets the meeting tone and carries the spirit of the meeting. The moderator should be the first one to reach the meeting location. It is always recommended for the moderator to book additional time for himself/herself before the meeting so that he/she can check all the necessary arrangements and initiate the online meeting sessions and/or open Conference Bridge etc.
Once the meeting starts, it is the responsibility of the moderator to take attendance of all the participants as it sometimes can be a very important part of the archives to refer to for some important stats. Also it provides the moderator to take control of the meeting and implement discipline into it.
The moderator is also responsible to control the flow and pace of the meeting. The moderator announces the meeting Agenda, point by point, and invites the relevant participants to discuss them and at the end summarizes the agreed future actions regarding that item. It is the duty of the moderator to keep reminding the participants if the discussion is going out of scope and keeps all updated in the time-check.
The moderator may himself be the one taking the Minutes of the Meeting (MOM) or may be assisted by someone else for this purpose. It is recommended to have some different person than the moderator to take MOM to allow the moderator focus on other activities more effectively.
Minutes of the Meeting (MOM)
In order to take meetings forward and have effective output, MOM is the key. The MOM, along with any meeting recordings etc. should be shared with the participants as soon as possible so that in case there is any gap that should be ratified. Good MOM clearly answers many of the questions related to “What Next?”, “When?” and “Who?”
The Action Items can be then followed with the agreed Responsible person and per decided Timeline. Also it may provide a very useful input and sets the ground for the follow-up meeting or some other meeting. So we can say that MOM actually drives the actual activities after the meeting.
Review of previous Action Items
If the meeting is a follow up meeting, then the Review of Action items from the previous meeting is also any important activity and can be at the very start of the meeting. It not only forms connection among the two meetings but also takes the items a step forward. There is no point in conducting meetings and adding up action items if they are not continuously under the radar. That is the reason that a major part of the good meetings is spent in discussing the open items from previous meetings and just adding new items which may be required.
This is a part of the meeting which is used to accommodate the effective points in discussion beyond agenda. It provides the participants to openly discuss things and anything interesting, that might be discussed in the future, is parked in this section. The items can be part of future agenda meetings after the review of the management.