Last Updated on 13 April 2011

Sand for Your Inbox
June 2007

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings…

How often do you review your planner to see your week riddled with meetings and wonder when you’re going to get your own work done?

What’s worse… So many end up a poor use of time and adjourn without accomplishing more than taking an hour out of your busy schedule.

Just because meetings are necessary, doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be bad.

In this installment of “Sand for Your Inbox” we share secrets to preventing hours lost to non-productive, inefficient meetings.

It almost sounds too good or easy to be true. How can an agenda make that much of a difference? Take a look at this agenda. It may look like a meeting you attended this week…

Promotion Update Meeting

9:00 am Review agenda Nancy
9:10 am Department Updates Tim – Product
Lynn – Creative
Chris – Operations
10:00 am Winter calendar dates All
10:20 am Address questions All
10:30 am Adjourn  

Points should be awarded simply for having an agenda… But there are a few flaws. Let’s take a look…

  • My agenda is a list of static items. What is point A, and where is point B? What’s being resolved?
  • How do Tim, Lynn, and Chris know what to prepare? Participants don’t know what to expect or what’s expected of them.
  • More than likely, because we’ve booked 90-minutes, we’ll end up filling 90-minutes.

Here’s our recommended approach…

Promotion Update Meeting

Goal: Finalize outstanding product, menu, and incentive issues for Fall Promotion. Set dates for Winter.
Pre-Session Work: Please read the notes provided by Tim, Lynn, and Chris and be prepared to discuss their recommendations. Bring key dates for the Winter promotion.
Starting Time: 9:00 am | Ending Time: 10:30 am

Results / Objectives:
Finalize timing of new product launch to coincide with signage delivery. Tim / Nancy 5-10 minutes
Review new menu board options. Make selection. Lynn 15-20 minutes
Select sampling incentive program and review/finalize goals. Chris 10-15 minutes
Plot Winter promotion dates on calendar and establish deadlines for Winter promotion. Nancy 10-15 minutes
Identify priorities, accountabilities, and next meeting date (if required) All 5-10 mins

Post-Session Work:

  • Product launch/signage delivery dates provided to production team.
  • Menu board finalized, creative team to create mock-ups for walk-thru presentation.
  • Incentive program and sampling goals sent to implementation team.
  • Winter promotion team to distribute calendar to departments for feedback.

With this second approach, I define exactly what we plan to accomplish. The goal atop describes the specific purpose and each agenda item is a result. Those accountable and the other participants know what to expect and what is expected of them.

At most, this meeting could last 90-minutes, but has flexibility to finish in as early as 45 minutes. Ah, the gift of time!

Finally, list the steps that follow this meeting as post-session work. Participants can see what the work of this meeting will lead to and be reminded of any follow-up expected of them.

Summary / Tips

  • Prepare an agenda for all of your meetings. Distribute well in advance to allow participants to arrive prepared.
  • Include the purpose or goal statement for each meeting.
  • List any preparation you require from participants.
  • Instead of a task list, establish results and outcome. Finish the statement: “At the end of this part we will have accomplished…”
  • For accountability and to set expectations, assign a person with each result. People will be happy to know what is expected of them.
  • Provide a flexible time range for each agenda item.
  • Outline what is to happen after this meeting and before the next.
  • Use this approach for ALL of your meetings. Have a status update with your boss? Won’t she be pleased when you show up with a result-based agenda!
  • Create a “no agenda, no meeting” policy.

I can guarantee, by adopting a result-based approach to your meetings you will be more productive and more efficient. You will make meaningful use of your, and your participants time. In short, you will be a superstar.

Best results,
Paul's First Name
Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam