Stop the stragglers; start the meeting

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

Years ago, Jon was one of a three-member team. The team had a critical goal to meet for the upcoming year, and Jon had set up an important team meeting for 10 a.m.

At 9:45, he was setting up the room. By 9:50, he was ready to start. By 9:59, no one had arrived.

“I had a decision to make,” he says. “What if I set the expectations for this team meeting going forward? What if I started the meeting on time—all by myself?”

That’s exactly what he did. He began working through the agenda, talking out loud to the empty conference room.

At 10:06, team members Linda and Sally strolled into the conference room. Jon pointed to their agendas on the table, whispered “We’re on item three,” and kept on talking.

‘‘We thought you were on a conference call! Who are you talking to?’’ asked Linda. Jon didn’t respond, but kept his focus on the discussion of item three on the agenda.

“You can call me crazy, but guess what happened for the rest of the meetings I held with that team? People showed up on time,” he says.

That’s why “Just start it” is now his No.1 rule for holding meetings that start on time. His other rules:

√ The 11:01 principle. Schedule your meetings at an odd time, such as 11:01 instead of 11:00. Why? It causes others to take notice of the start time. Be sure you start on that minute exactly—no exceptions.

√ Social time. Schedule in time for interaction. Set a start time of 10:50, noting that bagels and conversation will go on until 11:01, when the meeting will promptly begin.

√ Pass the pad. Announce in advance that notes will be taken by the last person to arrive. Notes and action items must be completed and shared within one hour of the meeting.

A yellow legal pad can shift from one person to another as latecomers arrive and previous note-takers heave a sigh of relief. The latecomer can catch up by reading previous notes on the yellow pad.

√ Close the meeting room doors at start time.

√ Bagel fund. Latecomers must contribute a dollar to the bagel, or coffee, fund jar (unless they informed the host ahead of time that they would be late).

√ Always arrive early. Set the tone by being set up and ready when the first attendee arrives.

Attendee tip: If you arrive on time for a meeting, but the meeting host is late, leave a handwritten note that says something like, ‘‘I was here for the 11 a.m. meeting, but no one else was, so I assume it’s been canceled. Call or text if the meeting still happens.’’ Then leave a time stamp (11:05 a.m.) to show you waited a few minutes.

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