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Article published in Issue Number: 061202

Meeting success

At the dawn of a new year, many of us take a fresh look at our goals. In doing so, we often see the need to work more effectively with others to attain common objectives. This requires productive meetings, whether attended by just a few or hundreds of individuals.

But how do you host events that will both engage attendees and extract as much information from them as possible? How do you make meetings worthwhile for participants and organizers alike?

S-u-c-c-e-s-s-ful components

Following are some tips to help you get your meetings off to a fresh start in 2007 and keep them on track throughout the year.

Set parameters: While planning the meeting, determine specific start and stop times and then communicate them to invitees. Make it clear whether the meeting will end on time even if the meeting's goals are not attained. And if so, explain what will happen next.

For example, if an unmet goal is to determine a timeline for opening a new office, you could decide the executives in charge will be free to determine the timeline without approval from others.

Urge invitees to RSVP: Send potential participants invitations via e-mail. Get commitments from attendees. And don't schedule the meeting if you don't have enough people signed on, or if key people are unable to attend.

Also, offer food or drinks to bolster attendance. But, choose wisely. Resist serving rich foods that could cause lethargy or cuisine that cannot be eaten easily while taking notes. Also, don't serve anything that might cause disruption, such as sticky items that would necessitate a trip to the restroom to wash one's hands.

Check your space and materials: Before the meeting, verify that the meeting space you have in mind has enough room, tables, chairs, etc., to accommodate your attendees. Plan where tables will be placed to make sure all attendees can see one another. Have all whiteboards, monitors and video screens easily visible from all parts of the room.

Commence on time: Start the meeting on time, even if all invitees are not yet present. Do not reward late arrivals by waiting for them, or by repeating information they may have missed. If you do so, it will irritate those who have made the effort to be on time and encourage them to be tardy next time.

Encourage everyone's involvement: Name one person as the secretary to record pertinent data. Select another person to watch the clock, periodically letting people know how much time is left and what remains on the agenda. You could even put someone in charge of monitoring how long individuals speak, alerting them when they have used up their allotted time.

Choose another attendee to write key points on a whiteboard. Getting attendees involved gets them invested in the meeting's outcome. And they pay closer attention to the speakers because they are now part of the process.

Supply an agenda: Before the meeting, distribute an agenda to all invitees that includes the purpose of the meeting, who is invited and the meeting's goals. Encourage attendees to come with ideas to share, as well as an open mind. If people have time to form thoughts beforehand, they may be less fearful of appearing stupid and more likely to share their ideas with the group.

Sum up: At the end of the meeting, recap what transpired and briefly delineate the next steps you propose. Thank all for attending and actively participating. Within a few days, distribute minutes outlining what the meeting covered, and include a list of actions to take, along with the party responsible for each one.

Remember, as the coming year unfolds, any business can buy new equipment or invest in new technologies. But, it is employees and partners who make each enterprise unique. It takes time and effort, but if a company is able to assemble and harness all its creative energy in one room, it can make meetings an extraordinarily fertile avenue to success.

Article published in issue number 061202

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