I remember working for a CEO a long time ago who became so fed up with his management team wandering into any given meeting 5, 10, 15 minutes past the hour that he set a new rule: the conference room door was to be locked at the top of the hour and anyone on the other side had to find out for himself the outcome of the meeting and what was assigned to him.
Remembering my colleague on the other side of the glass peering in at 10:02 with a defeated look on his face always stayed with me, and I’m certainly not recommending this practice, but what I did appreciate back then, and still do, was the CEO’s attempt to set a discipline that if professionals were going to spend time in a meeting, the time had best be put to good use. I learned from him at a fairly young age the essentials to an effective meeting.
It All Starts With An Agenda. I know, how obvious is this, however it’s still not uncommon to attend a meeting without one or if there is an agenda, it’s not super engaging. If you consider the agenda as the marketing collateral to “sell” participants what they’ll gain by attending your session, you’ll draft the content to ensure the team is focused on the topics you want to cover.
Begin on Time, End On Time. Teams form habits when it comes to meeting attendance and one of them is if one participant is missing at the start, others will feel free to run back to their desk, grab a coffee, or make a call and pretty soon it’s acceptable for the group to come and go as they please until the meeting is called to an “official” start, usually well past the start. If you find this dynamic in your organization, break the habit by starting on time no matter who’s in the room and ending on time no matter where you are in the conversation. Without having to lock the door, participants will get that it’s to their advantage to be on time for your meeting.
Watch for the Subject Changer. You know this person: he can hijack the agenda by changing the subject and suddenly the whole group is keenly interested in discussing whatever topic he’s brought to the table and meanwhile the clock is ticking. The best way to avoid this dynamic is to nip it in the bud by reminding the whole group what the meeting’s original intent is with a promise that the deferred subject can be discussed if there’s time at the end of the session.
If It Isn’t Written Down, It Didn’t Happen. Be sure to capture commitments, deadlines and who agreed to be responsible for what during the meeting and recap it at the end to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Then email it to the team and mark on your own calendar those deadlines to serve as a reminder for follow up.