How to get the most out of your meetings

CTC has been using this software to help us organize meetings, making sure our staff meetings are effective and never redundant or disorganized. We are most impressed by the ease and effectiveness of planning the agenda, taking notes live during the meeting against that agenda, being able to park ideas for future discussion and the value of being able to email the automatically formatted minutes of the meeting just afterwards. A great tool for planning groups and committees. Below is an open letter from guest blog author, Edwin Siebesma.

We all spend a lot of time in meetings, either formally scheduled or just quick ad-hoc conversations. Meetings allow for a unique form of direct communication and will help get everyone on the same page to move a project or organization forward.

Unfortunately the word “Meeting” often triggers eye rolls and exasperation, with many of us writing off the time as wasted. According to the Wharton Center for Applied Research, the average CEO spends 17 hours per week in meetings, senior executives an average of 23 hours and middle managers 11 hours. Even worse, only 56% of these meetings are productive.

If we could make all meetings productive, huge financial gains are possible, and equally beneficial, effective meetings will also improve the company culture and create a sense of accomplishment.

To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of meetings I developed MeetingKing, a web based tool to facilitate and document your meetings and conversations and get things done. MeetingKing will help the organizer to implement best practices in an efficient way. You can create a free account at http://meetingking.com.

So how can you get the most out of your meetings? Let’s look at the three stages around meetings:

  1. Preparation

  2. The actual meeting

  3. Follow-up

Meeting preparation First make sure your meeting has a clear goal and then determine who should participate. Be selective; don’t invite anyone to whom the meeting is irrelevant.

The next step is setting a start AND end time and creating the agenda. This may sound formal, but is absolutely necessary. Without an agenda participants cannot prepare and the meeting will be dominated by people who like to talk, instead of having a constructive discussion based on sensible arguments. Even for a one-on-one phone call I will make sure the other party knows what we are discussing. Make sure you distribute any supporting material (reports, analyses, etc.) together with the agenda.

As organizer you should demand that attendees come prepared. They should have read the material provided and be ready to contribute to the discussion with well-founded arguments. Write down your arguments, so you won’t forget them during the meeting. If you use MeetingKing you can make private notes right in the agenda. Going to a meeting without an agenda and without proper preparation is like going to an exam without studying – you are doomed to fail.

MeetingKing makes your meeting preparation easy. It automatically copies the list of invitees, the date and time and the location from Outlook, iCal or Google Calendar and creates a unique meetings space. In that space you can create your agenda and include supporting materials and attachments. The invitees can contribute to the agenda. No longer 10 or 20 different emails and separate word documents. More info at http://meetingking.com/how-to-create-a-meeting-agenda-with-meetingking/. (Note: forced adoption is not necessary; MeetingKing is already effective if only the organizer has an account).

The actual meeting Rule one is to start on time and rule two is to end on time. People are busy and if you, as organizer, don’t value your participants’ time, they won’t value yours. If your meeting is part of a series of meetings you should start with a quick update on the tasks from the previous meeting(s). This will make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and will help to get all participants in a winning mood if they can see what was accomplished since the previous meeting. In case of overdue tasks, request an explanation and have the task owner commit to a new date.

To keep your meeting on track, stick to the agenda and don’t be tempted to discuss new topics that come up. These new topics may be very important and need to be discussed, but do so in a different meeting. This gives all participants the opportunity to prepare for that topic. To make sure that these new topics won’t drop off the radar, you can place them on the parking lot, a feature also available in MeetingKing. Next time you organize a meeting you can add the relevant parking lot items back onto your agenda.

Making notes is key for any meeting. If you have no record of what you decided, you may as well not have the meeting. These notes should not be long essays, but just short bullets. There are three types of notes; informational notes, decisions and tasks. It is best to appoint one person to make the notes during the meeting, so he or she can focus on that task and the others can focus on the discussion. In case you don’t have a formal secretary, I suggest rotating the task of making notes.

Making notes is a breeze in MeetingKing. You simply type a short bullet and save it as a Note, Decision or Task. MeetingKing will add this information to your central team task manager and automatically prepare and distribute the minutes. More info at: http://meetingking.com/writing-minutes/.

Follow-up It is important to distribute the meeting minutes as soon as possible after the meeting. If things were interpreted or recorded incorrectly and the discussion is still fresh in everyone’s mind, this can be corrected immediately.

The minutes should include a list of attendees, a correct summary of all key points, decisions and tasks for each topic and preferably a complete task summary at the end. Make sure that the minutes are stored in a place where you can actually find them in case you need to look up something. MeetingKing does this all automatically for you.

The list with action items is the most important outcome of the meeting. If the meeting did not result in tasks, the meeting was probably unnecessary, and an email message would have been more appropriate. Ideally the task list is interactive, sends reminders and is accessible to all participants so they can provide updates. The integrated team task manager in MeetingKing takes care of this.

As mentioned before, if you have a series of meetings, start the next meeting with an update on the action items of the previous meeting. To help you with that you can create a follow-up meeting in MeetingKing and tasks from the previous meeting(s) will be added to the agenda of this new meeting. A great help to get things done, because no-one wants to see his name next to an overdue task.

Why do we have poor meetings? Having effective and efficient meetings is not rocket science, as long as you follow the basic rules. The key problem is the information and documentation flow around meetings. Current documentation methods require the use of at least three or four different tools –email, word processors, tasks managers, file sharing, etc. This is complicated and time consuming, so… we struggle on.

Possible solution To help you improve your meetings I developed MeetingKing. In the text above I already gave some examples how MeetingKing can help. MeetingKing is built around the natural workflow of meetings and conversations and turns short notes into up-to-date actionable information:

  1. Meeting agenda

  2. Professional meeting minutes

  3. Tasks and task reminders

  4. Powerful searchable archive

  5. And more

Users enter information easily and only once. MeetingKing translates information from the meeting invitation into an agenda automatically, and that agenda serves as the basis for taking notes. After the meeting, MeetingKing compiles complete meeting minutes and emails them to attendees. Users can assign tasks directly while taking notes and the dashboard and email reminders make sure that things actually get done.

MeetingKing maintains the continuity of a sequence of meetings by adding all action items from prior meetings to the agenda of the next meeting. By adding tags to topics, users can find anything related to a certain project or department regardless of the meeting where it was discussed. All participants can make private notes right in the agenda and the minutes, for optimal preparation and follow-up.

I hope article gave you some useful hints and tips to get the most out of your meetings. More information and a meeting checklist are available at http://meetingking.com.

Kind Regards, Edwin Siebesma Founder / CEO MeetingKing

#EdwinSiebesma #efficiency #meetingking

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