BLP TIG Week: Making Meetings Matter by Sheena Horton

Sheena Horton
Sheena Horton

Do you consider meetings to be where time and productivity go to die? You’re not alone! We have all been in ineffective, mind-numbing meetings, but both leaders and attendees are responsible for a meeting’s success. I’m Sheena Horton, Consultant/Project Manager for MGT Consulting Group and President of the Southeast Evaluation Association, and I have some tips for how we can all contribute to having more mindful, productive meetings.

 

Hot Tips and Rad Resources – As a Leader:

  • Before scheduling a meeting, consider whether you need one. Is an email more appropriate for the topic or audience? Have a clear purpose and expectations for what is to be gained from the meeting.
  • Determine who needs to attend to accomplish the desired goals. The fewer, the better! Small groups encourage a more conversational tone and increased engagement from all attendees versus a large group.
  • Avoid scheduling last minute or having long meetings. Allow time for yourself and attendees to prepare for the meeting. Be considerate of your attendees’ other commitments. Keep meetings short; 35-45 minutes is ideal. People become restless, tired, and disengaged during longer meetings. Your meeting is too long if you need breaks!
  • Always provide an agenda to attendees at least 1-2 days before the meeting. Do not delegate the meeting planning; it’s your meeting – own it! Create a simple bulleted list agenda or download a free template from Microsoft (https://templates.office.com/en-us/Agendas) or TidyForm (https://www.tidyform.com/agenda-template.html), or utilize planning tools like Agreedo (https://www.agreedo.com). List agenda items as questions to encourage brainstorming, and avoid too many agenda items. After sharing the agenda, ask attendees if they have any items to add or questions. This will help you prepare answers ahead of the meeting.
  • Designate a notetaker. A record is vital for ensuring what was accomplished during a meeting is not forgotten or lost and is useful for upholding accountability regarding any assigned tasks. Minutes should be distributed to attendees promptly after the meeting.
  • Be mindful of meeting start/stop times and moderate as appropriate. Stick to your agenda. Set expectations for the meeting’s purpose and for how the meeting will be conducted. Robert’s Rules of Order (http://www.robertsrules.org) is a common resource used to govern meeting procedures. Allow for creativity and interaction among attendees, such as mind mapping using post-it notes or online tools like MindMeister (https://www.mindmeister.com).
  • Determine outcomes for agenda items. Resolve one agenda item before moving to the next. Determine the who, what, and when for assigned tasks. Follow up on action items after the meeting and track progress. Smartsheet offers great templates (https://www.smartsheet.com/15-free-task-list-templates) for fast tracking.

Hot Tips and Rad Resources – As an Attendee:

  • Respond promptly to meeting invitations, review the agenda, and arrive on time. Consider agenda items carefully, brainstorm what you can contribute, and send questions to your meeting leader at least a day before the meeting.
  • Avoid distractions during meetings and be engaged! Make the time spent worthwhile for everyone.
  • Follow through on assigned action items. Adhere to deadlines and keep your meeting leader informed of progress.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Business, Leadership and Performance (BLP)  TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the BLP Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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