Running effective meetings, easy right? Maybe not!

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dhaughey
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Here's a collection of articles packed with useful tips and advice for running effective meetings:

Leading Meetings with Multicultural Audiences
With the increase in virtual teams that span the globe, multicultural audiences are becoming more common. When the meeting includes participants from different cultures and backgrounds, it can be challenging. This article has tips to keep in mind when leading a meeting with a multicultural audience.

Let's Make Those Project Meetings More Effective
Do you spend most of your time in back-to-back meetings instead of getting on with what you need to? This article has 9 golden rules that might just help.

Facilitating a Requirements Validation Meeting with Ease!
Ensuring that a requirements document is accurate, complete and fully supported by key stakeholders can be critical to project success. Unfortunately, requirements validation sessions can be protracted and challenging. This article has tips to help you complete your requirements document quickly and accurately.

Managing the "Meeting from Hell!"
Are you faced with difficult and disruptive personalities in your meetings? This article, in the form of a case study, explores three common dysfunctional personalities and how to manage them.

How Do You Project Confidence Leading Meetings When You're Really Not?
Do you lack the confidence you think you should have when asked to lead a meeting? There's a host of reasons you may experience feelings ranging from slight intimidation to downright terror! This article has a few simple tips to help you when you need to lead a session with confidence.

To quote American Economist Thomas Sowell:
The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favour of holding meetings.
So make sure the meetings you do have are worthwhile and productive.

Duncan
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I read the above articles with great interest and all of them have relevant and somewhat valid points, they do strike me as being a bit textbook orientated though and also a little too long winded and bureaucratic. I have run a lot of meetings for a wide variety of reasons and projects in the past and have found that they basically come down to selling an idea in order to obtain some sort of benefit.

In my early days a lot of meetings failed because they were allowed to descend into what can only be considered time wasting chaos with people constantly not being fully prepared for the meetings, going off of topic, pushing forward personal agendas not to mention wasting time by arguing a single irrelevant point to destruction. Obviously those meeting were very time consuming and very often ran out of time and did not achieve very much in the way of productive work.

Does this sound familiar to your meetings?

Well, to overcome this problem I sought out some very good books on conducting meetings and studied the subject with enthusiasm. As a result of this I came up with the following formula.

First decide what the meeting is about, is the purpose of the meeting to pass on information, gather facts or idea generation or is it a quazi training session. All of these meetings run in similar ways but may have a considerable effect on the time value of the meeting, which can be very expensive (take the hourly rate of each member and then double it to get the true cost of the meeting).

For purpose of efficiency different subject matter should not be lumped together in one protracted meeting but split up into their own dedicated meetings. I know that some people will be saying at this point, oh yeh, we will end up in meeting after meeting after meeting if we did this but that is not the case. It is far better to have much shorter highly focused dedicated meetings than to waste precious time jumping from topic to topic and getting nowhere.

Basically preparation and discipline of the meeting members by the chairperson is essential. In my opinion, except for emergency meetings, all the relevant material that is going to be discussed at the meeting should have been distributed at least a week before the meeting so that everyone has had time to read it and construct an informed opinion and also gather and distribute relevant information supporting their opinion and be ready to make valid arguments or decisions when they attend the meeting.

NO SUPRISES IS THE NAME OF THIS GAME.

I found that the best and most productive meetings focused on no more than six items on the agenda in the following order.

1) A benefits realisation report on an issue that had been authorised and reported as completed (this would have occupied the second or third item on the agenda at a previous meeting).

2) A progress report on an issue that had been approved and had not been completed since the previous meeting.

3) Authorisation to proceed or decision not to proceed on an issue put on the agenda at a previous meeting (here, all the relevant information should have been presented and investigated in the week before the meeting).

4) Authorisation to investigate a new issue taken out of the issues register (generally the highest priority issue in the register)

5) Authorisation to add new issues to the issue register (information regarding the issue should have been sent to the committee at least a week before the meeting)

6) Emergency issues that need an immediate decision (a fire fighting attitude is to be discouraged when ever possible).

Under this system everyone should be fully prepared to solve problems and make informed decisions at the meeting with the minimum amount of discussion and wasted time.

I have found (especially in the public sector) that the true objective of having meetings is not actually to solve problems but to waste time and have even more meetings one after another in order to bump up the financial benefits to the participants.

An example of this is warranted.

A typical out of hours public sector meeting is called to address the issue of vandalism, at the meeting there are representatives of the community (not paid), three city councillors, two out-reach workers, the home beat bobby and his commander and assistant, the head of housing and his assistant, estate officers and their assistants and more. The meeting goes on for two or three hours and achieves absolutely nothing and everyone gets up smiles and congratulates each other for attending, then books another meeting for next month. This goes on for six months to a year and there is still no resolution to the problem.

Why?

Excepting the the representatives of the community, the objective of the meeting for the other attendees was not to address and find a viable solution to the problem. That was the last thing on their minds. The objective of the meeting was in fact to have another meeting whereby all of the above could claim extra expenses and overtime payments or other financial rewards.

If the problem had been solved in just three meetings under the above system, all of those people would have lost out financially in the long run.

Don’t let your meetings degenerate into the "lets have another meeting trap".
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