Many books were written on how to run meetings – it is definitely a challenging task to accomplish. The guidelines in “Invite the Right Way” would definitely get our chances higher to make it happen. But still, we have the responsibility to run the meeting the right way as well.
I would like to share with you a few guidelines that would help us move forward with our meeting goals.
Be assertive and focused
If we are the meeting owners, it is our responsibility that the meeting would be focused on the objectives and agenda. If people get off the road, we should help them get back on track. One of the strongest phrases that would help us accomplish this is “let’s take it offline”.
Offline is not a bad word – it means that a specific discussion is important, but not important for the current meeting objectives and therefore should be discussed in another time and/or with a different forum.
You know what, I wasn’t accurate enough when I said “if people get off the road”. I should have said “when people get off the road” because it happens all the time in most of the meetings I have participated in. It is not because people have bad intensions – I guess it is just because every one of us has different interests and understanding when coming to a specific meeting, and this is usually not aligned with the meeting owner objectives.
By the way, this is why small meetings are more efficient – you have less off-the-road incidents…
Sum it up 5 minutes before end
This is highly important note to remember. I have seen great managed meetings turn useless only because no one took the time to summarize the meeting at the end, for making sure all participants are on the same page and all aligned with the summary.
How to do it? We should stop the discussion 5 minutes before it ends. Yes, even if the discussion is not over yet and even if people really really want to speak up for 2 more minutes. We should cut the discussion and start summarizing it. After the summary, the meeting ends and we should thank everyone for participating. If a follow-up meeting is needed, we should say that a follow up meeting would be scheduled.
If we won’t summarize the meeting on time, the meeting would end without making sure that all participants are on the same page, which means people might follow up on the meeting summary offline, arguing that this is not what was discussed and agreed during the meeting. Then, we would have to open up the discussion again…
Send a meeting summary
People forget. We forget. There are so many tasks and meetings during our work week – we just can’t hold all the details in our head. This means that no one would remember the meeting summary 2 weeks from now. If no one would remember, it is like if the meeting didn’t happen at all, and the last thing we want is doing the same meeting all over again.
We should write the meeting summary on the same day or the following day the latest. An easy trick to summarize an email is:
- Go to the Calendar
- Right-click on the meeting
- Select “Reply All”
By doing that, the meeting participant list appears in your email distribution list automatically.
- Add to the email title the following suffix: “- meeting summary (yyyy-mm-dd)
For example, suppose I have done a meeting called “Project X: design for feature Y”. The summary title would look like “Project X: design for feature Y – meeting summary (2016-01-08)”
- Write the meeting summary and press Send