Management: Meeting Mastery

Quick Quiz – Measure Your Meeting Mastery
Here’s an easy quiz to check the health of your meetings.
1) Who leads your meetings? — a) No one, b) Whoever has the loudest voice, c) A facilitator
2) What happens to the ideas in your meetings? — a) If we had to think of ideas, it would be work, b) We make fun of them, c) A scribe writes them on a chart pad
3) Are results obtained in your meetings? — a) We eat all the donuts, b) And we drink all of the coffee, c) Yes!
4) Do your meetings have an agenda? — a) Is that some kind of cabinet?, b) I saw one once in an article, c) Yes!
5) Who attends your meetings? — a) We have bleachers to hold spectators, b) The entire staff plus any homeless people in the neighborhood, c) Only those who can contribute
6) How long are your meetings? — a) I’ll let you know when this one ends, b) All day, c) An hour or less
7) During a meeting do you: — a) Break a foam cup into bits, b) Prepare for the next meeting, c) Focus on the topic
8) How soon after the meeting do you issue minutes? — a) If you think I want to publicize how much time we wasted, you’re nuts, b) Within a few months or so, c) As soon as possible, if not faster
9) While someone is speaking, do you: — a) Wonder about the strength of plastic foams, b) Plan a way to change the subject, c) Listen empathetically
10) What structured activities do you use in your meetings? — a) We sit on chairs, b) Everyone leaves at the same time, c) Process tools designed to gather information, make decisions, and manage participation.
Score: subtract five points for every (a), mark a zero for every (b), and add five points for every (c).
If your total is:
* Negative: Go to your boss and ask to be fired
* Zero to 20: Stay home
* 25 to 35: Attend a workshop
* 40 to 50: Congratulations


Quick Tip – Do Your Meetings Have a Complete Agenda?
Most agendas for a meeting look like this.
* Budget
* Payroll
* Staff
* Sales
* Zvoufzxtn
Some people tell me, “That’s a perfectly good agenda. I know what all of those things mean, except, uh, ‘Zvoufzxtn’.” The point is, Zvoufzxtn means as much to you as the other terms mean to the other participants. For example, does budget mean increase the budget? Plan a budget? Report on the budget? Reduce the budget? Complain about the budget? Make fun of the budget? Or zvoufzxtn the budget?
An agenda like the one above could launch a meeting that considers all of the possibilities mentioned above. Instead, you may have wanted to reallocate funds from one department to another.
A proper agenda specifies everything that the participants need to know to make the meeting effective. It should contain:
Goal: A clear description of the results expected by the end of the meeting, such as a decision, agreement, or solution.
Outcome: The reason (or benefit) for achieving the goal.
Activities: A detailed list of the activities that will be used in the meeting. This should be so complete that someone else could use it to lead your meeting.
Logistics: Everything that the participants need to know to contribute to an effective meeting. This can include directions to the meeting room, instructions on how to prepare, and a list of things to bring.
A complete agenda will help you hold effective meetings.


Quick Tip – Effective Meetings Earn a Profit
Most people treat meetings as a free resource that can be used to deal with any issue. As a result, huge amounts of time and money are wasted on trivia.
A meeting is a business activity (not a social event) and should be designed to earn a profit. Here’s how.
Once you’ve prepared the goals for your meetings, use the following analysis to plan the agenda.
1) Calculate the cost of the meeting by multiplying the number of participants (N), their labor rate (R), and the length of the meeting (t). Then add all other expenses (E), including travel, materials, refreshments, room rental, and other expenses.
Cost = N * R * t + E
2) Estimate the value of the results expected from the meeting.
For some issues this step will be easy. Resolving a manufacturing inefficiency, for example, could save thousands of dollars. Or developing an effective strategic plan could earn millions.
This step becomes difficult for less tangible results, such as exchanging information in staff meetings or making some policy decisions. In those cases, estimate the value by comparing outcomes with their potential costs. For example, does it make sense to spend ten thousand dollars on exchanging information in a staff meeting or is five hundred dollars more appropriate?
3) Determine the return on your investment (ROI) by comparing value versus cost.
ROI = Value – Cost
If this analysis predicts a loss, either revise the meeting’s scope or cancel it. After all, a meeting, like any project, must earn a profit.
In addition, a profitable meeting will be an effective meeting.


Quick Tip – How to Set a Goal for Your Meeting
Goals are critically important for the success of a meeting. You must know what you want so you can ask for it. And the participants need to know what you want so they can help you get it. Without goals, a meeting becomes a journey without a destination.
Unfortunately, many meetings are called without goals. So, you hear people start meetings by saying, “Well, what do you want to talk about?” This is similar to walking into a factory and asking, “Well, what do you want to make?” You could end up with anything from ant farms to xylophones.
Thus, your first step is to write out a statement of the results that you want to have by the end of the meeting. I want to emphasize that you must write out the goals for the meeting. This forces you to define exactly what you want. Certainly, if you’re unable to express your goals on paper, you can expect to have difficultly explaining what you want to the attendees.
Writing goals also provides important benefits. It allows you to consider, explore, and discard possibilities. And then you can show the goals to others to obtain their comments and suggestions.
Asking for help preparing goals is especially useful when working on complex or controversial issues. Now you can 1) use their comments to refine the goals, 2) win support for your goals by including others in their development, 3) gain information on issues related to the goals, 4) uncover issues that may conflict with the goals, and 5) develop strategies for achieving the goals.
Once you complete the goals for your meeting, put them on the agenda. That helps everyone focus on your purpose for the meeting. And it significantly increases your chances of ending with the results that you wanted.


Quick Tip – How to Set SMART Goals for Your Meeting
The first step in planning an agenda is to identify the goals for the meeting. Properly done, goals have five S M A R T characteristics. They are:
> Specific.
The goal must tell exactly what will be accomplished. For example: During the next hour we will develop a strategy to increase market share by 10%. This states exactly what the group will work on. Vague goals can cause you to lose control of the meeting.
> Measurable.
This helps you determine if the goal has been completed. It can be stated as a number (5 ideas, 10% gain, one decision) or as an achievement (Did we write a strategy or not?).
> Achievable.
Goals must be realistic for the resources and time available. For example, most groups could identify twenty ways to reduce the budget in a fifteen minute meeting. On the other hand, it is unlikely that a group could develop a comprehensive marketing plan in 30 minutes.
> Relevant.
To be meaningful, a goal has to relate to the overall mission of your business. Otherwise, you may be wasting time. Challenge each goal with the question, “What happens without it?” If your answer is “nothing,” cancel the meeting.
> Time.
Specifying a deadline (e.g., by noon) or a rate (e.g., 3 per hour) moves activity toward completing the task and provides a criteria to measure progress. Of course, you want to select realistic times.
As a final check, make sure your goals are so clear that someone else could use them to run your meeting.