Have you ever left a meeting with one or several of the following questions bouncing in your head?
- What was actually the result of the meeting?
- What needs to be done now? And who should do it?
- Haven’t I had this meeting before?
- Why was I even in the meeting?
Well, then (if you were not sleeping) you have just participated in one of those inefficient, and possibly totally unnecessary, meetings. Why do these meetings happen? I don't have a short and simple answer to that, but as a meeting facilitator I know there are some well-known and pretty simple rules for avoiding these kinds of questions to pop up after a meeting:
- Prepare the meeting well
- Make sure to have and communicate an agenda before the meeting. And stick to it during the meeting
- Only call a meeting when it is necessary
- Only invite the person who need to be in the meeting
- Respect the time frame
- Take notes on what is said and achieved during the meeting
- Identify action points that should be taken and by whom after the meeting ends
- Make sure to follow up the meeting, ensuring that all actions are carried out as planned
Personally, I think that a key to making meetings efficient is to make them more public, to let others within the organization than just the participants access the agenda, discussions, results and actions carried out afterwards. According to my experience, many meetings are arranged by “meeting-aholics” who arrange (or request get invited to) a meeting, often in an ad hoc manner, whenever they get a chance. The same people seldom do much productive work in between the meetings, often due to "lack of time" as they say. No wonder, since they are in meetings all of the time.
My point is that making meetings more public will put pressure on anyone arranging a meeting, forcing the meeting to be well-prepared, structured and result-oriented. Otherwise, people that are not participating in the meeting will start questioning what the meeting actually achieved and why it took place at all.
A blog can be a great tool for making a meeting more public. If everything about the meeting from the agenda to the followup was published on a blog, anyone within the company can read and follow the results of the meeting by visiting the blog or subscribing to the RSS feed. In addition, by using a blog for meetings you can avoid all the e-mailing of agendas, results and follow-ups. When posting this information on a blog, it won’t be lost in e-mails, or in documents stored somewhere on a file server. It will be easily accessible and searchable. Furthermore, any discussions that did not end during the meeting can be continued on the blog after the meeting. This is a good way to keep a meeting from exceeding its time frame. You simply refer to the blog for any continued discussions. Finally, you now definitely only need to invite those people who actually contribute to the meeting. If the others have something to contribute with, they can post it on the blog. It is my experience that this is the single most important factor to achieve efficient meetings - to have the right people there.