Prior to gathering anyone around the conference table, ask yourself or the meeting organizer this important question:
“Why are we meeting?”
The best meetings let groups do one of three things: brainstorm, solve a problem or make a decision.
People need a more tangible goal than simply to “discuss” an issue or listen to progress reports that are meant to impress others.
Tip: Write down a phrase or several phrases to complete this sentence: “By the end of the meeting, I want the group to _____.” Your ending to the sentence might look something like this:
… generate three ideas for ___.
… understand how we ___.
… leave with an action plan.
… decide on ___.
… solve a problem.
Once you’ve filled in the blanks, you have a “meeting objective.” Write it at the top of the agenda.
With a clear objective to work toward, people can focus on the desired outcome: Discuss and decide whether to expand a project, for example. Or discuss and develop a plan.
The other benefit of going through this exercise? You may discover you don’t have a good reason for having a meeting.
The very best reason to hold a meeting is that you need interaction between the people who are attending. It shouldn’t be a one-way conversation.
If the answer to the question at the top is, “I need to tell everyone about ...” then choose another vehicle, such as e-mail or voice mail. You’ll save everyone time, and they’ll still be up-to-date on what’s happening.
Having a clear objective going into the meeting helps deliver a clear outcome. Once you’ve determined what the objective is, send it out with the agenda—early—so attendees have a chance to mull over the topic beforehand.