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Meetings; What’s Most Important?

March 18, 2010
manageprouser

I read a great blog with several helpful suggestions for managing
meetings the other day.  It’s entitled 9 Tips for Efficient Meetings.
For me, the omission in this article raised a very important
question – which is “What’s Most Important in Meetings?”

Stay with me and I’ll summarize what the article said, what it
omitted, and why the answer to that question about what’s
important in meetings is critical.

First here’s a summary of the blog’s suggestions:
1. Make people show up on time
2. Always have an agenda
3. Invite the right people
4. Use email effectively
5. Use meetings to argue
6. Record your decisions
7. Kill the Powerpoints
8. Get everyone talking
9. End on time

The biggest omission in this blog is in point #6, which was basically
a suggestion to make sure you capture meeting notes to “give you a way
to pass on the meeting’s contents to people who need to know about the
discussion, but can’t come…”

When I read this, I’m yelling “No, No, No, the biggest reason to
capture meeting minutes is not to inform,  it’s to support action!”

And by-the-way, meeting minutes do a horrible job of supporting
action and follow-through.  For most, meeting notes are something
that gets filed away and 99% of the people never read them.

But back to when I quit yelling inside.

I realized that fundamentally people approach meetings with something
that is designated as most important.  I’m sure you do as well.  It could
be a number of things, but for this article and for most meetings, it’s
all about the discussion.  The discussion is most important, and
consequently you read in this blog and others, a number of tips about
how to have an efficient discussion.

That got me thinking.  I don’t think or operate that way.  For me,
what’s most important in meetings is action, not the discussion.

I’m not terribly interested in all the talk, except that it helps to review
what’s been done to-date, what are the decision points at hand and
what action needs to take place.  Ultimately the past, present and
future action steps are what’s important… not the talking.

I use ManagePro to manage meetings, because I want to track, plan,
review and assign action items within the meeting in real time.  Meeting
minutes become a quick synopsis of the discussion content, what got
accomplished, and mostly a series of new tasks that once entered in the
meeting are already showing up on individual’s calendars and todo lists.

Again, I need the documentation primarily to help me drive action,
not capture who said what.

Bottom Line:

We all prioritize something in meetings.  If you check, I believe you’ll
find that most people prioritize the discussion as what’s most important
in the meeting process.  I think that’s worth reconsidering.  You’ll get
much more out of meetings if you prioritize supporting action, instead
of “mike” time.

Link:ManagePro (Meeting) Management Software


15 Comments. Leave new

Christian von Reventlow
March 18, 2010 7:21 pm

Rodney,

enjoyed reading your article on meeting effectiveness. And you so rightfully point out, that people come to a meeting with an agenda – means what they want to achieve.

And they actually do: talk. Mostly just talk. It makes you feel important. There more you talk the more important you are.

After this unfortunately less funny comment – what does it mean in terms of business outcome? A strong leader is required to ensure that the meetings are structured as you describe above. So Leadership is key. And you as the business owner need to pick leaders based on their ability to enforce outcome – not their ability to talk.

Reply

Great information! Thanks for writing this. I have been involved in so many meetings that had little or no benefit once you left the room. Very few people seem to be able to hold a meeting and actually get an agenda completed. I also like your reasoning for the “minutes” to ensure action and not to simply inform. Nice job. Thanks again.

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Small Business Marketing
April 6, 2011 8:52 am

Wow! Back when I was in a more “corporate” situation, I always hated meetings with a passion. Now I understand better why I did.

The form our meetings took were dictated from above with only a small bit of personal input. I was bored; I know my employees were bored. Caffeine and sugar were required just to keep things moving.

Now that I am running my own business, meetings are different. Thought I was being a rebel, but maybe I was just wanting to get things done.

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This is so true and such an important activity to get right. If we want great performance from teams each person has to see their activites, projects, action items for the week and then it needs to be transparent to the team. I know you get that from ManagePro.

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I notice the same sentiments recurring throughout these comments and other blogs. That of unproductive meetings. It seems most company meetings have been reduced to mere ritual because of poor planning and, like what your article points out, a lack of accountability to those who respond or try to contribute solutions. I’ve been a part of these types of meetings and each time I came out of those, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat guilty because I felt I perhaps should have contributed something significant or just stupid for being like the other employees who seemed to have little initiative.

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I think the most important thing for me was to always have an agenda and to stick to the agenda, keeping people on track in a meeting is very difficult because they all want to visit. The other thing that stood out to me was the meeting minutes, yes they should be taken so you can fill in those that were not able to make the meeting, but you should also have something to support the action items as you said. In a lot of meeting that I have been in or led we used what is called a “Rail and it would list the action item, who had the action, a date the action needs to be completed, and an actual completed date along with a comment section that was kept up to date until the action was completed. Maybe that is something to add to the list of things to make a meeting run smoother.

Reply

The blog you summarized had some very good points. Our company is very big on email so the meeting notices can go out and they expect a response as to if you are going to be able to attend or not. Also on the email meeting notice they will include the meeting agenda so there is no excuse to not have it when you get to the meeting. Being on time is very important because it shows that you though what they had to discuss was important. You gave some great advice in your blog.

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Sandra, check out my site at http://www.RodneyBrim.com I’ve got more information on what actually adds value in business meetings. Our research has shown meetings can be reduced by following some simple guidelines and getting visibility on performance up on the screen. We use ManagePro and a projector to do the later, plus provide a concise structure for presentation of issues. It alls works to keep things very focused and getting the most out of the time.

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I think your article was very interesting and the summary of blog suggestions was very informative as well. I think the thing to remember when you are going to a meeting is to treat the meeting like it is yours and treat the person giving the meeting as you would want them to treat you. If you follow these guidelines I think you will do well and you will cover all the bases that are important in a meeting.

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In my experience working in various companies / teams, I’ve noticed there can be a tendency to skirt around the real issues of why a given project may be lagging in progress or failing. One of the best qualities a leader can have in situations like this is humor. Some employees are competent, but also very sensitive. One of the most effective methods I have ever seen a manager use is to infuse humor into what could be a grim situation for the company. It is important for the leader to be able to be candid and draw out the real reasons why a project is failing, but at the same time, uplift the employees after providing constructive criticism. I have seen this done masterfully by infusing humor into the situation. It helps provide perspective. If a project is failing, a crisis meeting should result in the employees having a sense of urgency to rectify the situation without feeling like someone is about to die – as in somebody’s head is about to go on the chopping block.

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What is the most important thing about a meeting? Well I would say if you are giving a meeting, make it personal, make the people interact with you, always have an agenda that goes out to the attendees a couple of days ahead of the meeting so they have time to prepare. And make sure you have a meeting rail that posts the subject, tasks, person assigned to the task and outcome. And set a good example, if you are leading the meeting make sure you are on time. I am not so sure about killing the power points though, why do you say that? Please post again if you have an answer.

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Catherine, thanks for the comment. Re: meetings, probably quicker to go to my site at http://www.rodneybrim.com There I have some specific video’s and ebooks on how to manage meetings to make them really effective. To your question about “killing power points”, I’m trying to communciate that the real power in meetings is not the presentation, so presenting should be in the most time efficient manner possible. Powerpoints and someone talking isn’t usually the most time efficient. The real power in meetings is getting people to interact with the presentation and move the value-add forward.

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With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally
educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
The issue is something that too few people are speaking intelligently about.
I’m very happy I found this during my hunt for something relating to this.

Reply
Rodney Brim
May 3, 2013 10:08 am

Thanks Christa, it’s both a challenge to write in a way that informs and still is entertaining. I find if I’m nothing thinking of something that makes me chuckle, I’m being way too dry. Anyway, appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

Reply

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