DO have an agenda
Do you have an agenda in place when planning a meeting? If not, then sit down and write it out. It doesn’t have to be long and complicated, but you HAVE to know what you want to talk about before the meeting starts. Once you’ve written the agenda, send it off to the meeting participants. They’ll want to see it, and possibly, comment on it.
DO invite just the right people
Invite the right people, because inviting the wrong people is just inviting trouble, and you certainly don’t need that. People who don’t have anything to contribute shouldn’t be there. People who only need to be updated at the end of the meeting as to the results, don’t need to be there. People who can’t, or won’t, make decisions, don’t need to be there.
DO have a goal
Having a goal isn’t like having an agenda. You can have a long and detailed agenda without a single goal in sight. Planning a meeting isn’t simply to get a bunch of people talking around a table. Your meeting is there to move things forwards and get things done. Decide on what feature to develop. Hire or fire the new intern. Get the marketing initiative moving or slice the budget. Think up new ideas to find more clients. If your meeting’s ‘purpose’ is to just shoot the breeze, then don’t. You’ve got better things to do with your time.
DO send out meeting minutes
People won’t remember what has been decided, and what they need to do. Send out meeting minutes when the meeting ends. Don’t delay it either, otherwise you’ll keep putting it off, and the minutes will never get sent out. Sending out the minutes, which include the meeting tasks and decisions, makes sure that the meeting gets things done, and that the follow up meeting won’t be wasted on re-hashing points resolved in this one.
DON’T leave issues unresolved
Meetings are where people meet to discuss things, and express their opinions. Don’t shut them down, or your meetings will become nothing more than reading out a list of things that need to be done. If an issue comes up that is covered in the agenda, then follow it through, and make a decision based on people’s opinions. If an issue comes up that isn’t covered in the agenda, either address it, or park it, and make sure that it is discussed later (either in private or by planning a new meeting). Don’t just dismiss issues out of hand – there is nothing more demoralizing.
DON’T allow interruptions
That means cellphones are switched to silent, people are instructed not to barge in on the meeting no matter what, all toilet, coffee and lunch breaks are done before the meeting, and no one emails or checks their Facebook newsfeed while in the meeting. The same applies for you, of course.
DON’T go over the time limit
Your meeting starts and ends at certain times. Start on time – even if not all the meeting participants have arrived. Don’t worry – do this a few times, and people will start learning to be on time. Just as importantly, end the meeting on time. People plan their own day in advance, and they shouldn’t have to take into account meetings that run on for longer than they should have. If you don’t manage to cover all the items on your agenda, then you’ve learned that your agenda is too busy, and next time, you’ll plan it better. Set a new meeting for those points that haven’t been discussed, and end your meeting. People will thank you for it.
DON’T leave the meeting open
Meetings have goals, remember? So when the meeting ends, you have reached some sort of conclusion. It may be about which feature to develop, it might be that John from R&D needs to research the new APIs to see what can be done. It might even be ‘we brainstormed a new idea to get new clients, who is going to implement it’. Whatever the decision is, the meeting has to end with a definitive aim and task – otherwise, you’ll hold another meeting, going over the same points again, and maybe this time reaching a decision.