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  • How do you keep meetings on track? Looking for tips, tools, efficiency suggestions.

    Hello,
    This is my first post to the forum but I have read many of the other threads and have learned a lot from all of you. I'm really interested to know how you keep meetings on track. How do you reign people in when they ramble off topic or are taking up too much of the group's time on a single topic? I'd greatly appreciate any tips that you have form me. What do you and your team do to keep meetings on track and more efficient so everyone can get on with the rest of their day?

    Many thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by A2NF View Post
    Hello,
    This is my first post to the forum but I have read many of the other threads and have learned a lot from all of you. I'm really interested to know how you keep meetings on track. How do you reign people in when they ramble off topic or are taking up too much of the group's time on a single topic? I'd greatly appreciate any tips that you have form me. What do you and your team do to keep meetings on track and more efficient so everyone can get on with the rest of their day?

    Many thanks!
    Hello!

    I did a 30 minute webinar for GTD Connect members about GTD & meeting management that you might get some good tips from. The two-week guest pass will give you access to the replay:

    https://secure.davidco.com/connect/m...9&trackid=1097

    Kelly

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    • #3
      Here are some of my trusted rules for effective meetings. I would lose my mind without them!

      MEETING AGENDAS! Make sure there is an agenda for the meeting, preferable shared in advance with the participants, so they know what will be discussed and can come prepared.

      ESTIMATE TIME ALLOTMENTS for each item on the agenda. This will help you determine beforehand if you’re attempting to cover too much territory, and make any needed adjustments. Once the agenda is distributed, include the planned time slots.

      OBSERVE START AND END TIMES. Respect everyone’s time. Don’t wait for stragglers and waste time at the front end. Wrap up firmly 5 minutes before the announced end so the meeting winds up on time. Only extend the meeting if all present agree to it.

      DISCUSSION LEADER. If one of the meeting participants should take the lead on an agenda item, make sure that everyone knows that and it’s included on the agenda, and make sure that person keeps the discussion on track.

      SUPPORTING MATERIALS. Tell people in advance what they need to be prepared for this meeting. What to bring, what to read, etc. If you are responsible for providing supporting material, get to to people in a timely manner so that they can come prepared. Make sure to have hard copies of any materials you distribute electronically (I know, more paper, but scrambling around for forgotten documents, or never-printed-out documents wastes a lot of time)

      APPOINT A SCRIBE. Someone responsible for taking notes who is GOOD AT IT, can distill the essence of the conversation and can produce notes with agreed-upon and assigned action items immediately following the meeting.

      Finally, if you're the boss -- hold your staff accountable for productive meetings and make sure they understand that this is a priority for you.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ideally, if someone will be participating by telephone or videoconference, assign one person at each location to establish the connection a few minutes before the meeting is scheduled to start, so everybody doesn't sit around waiting while technical difficulties are worked out. Test whether people at each location can see the pictures or whatever they're supposed to see; and then leave the connections turned on while waiting for the meeting to start so you're not left saying "It was working a few minutes ago".

        If I have a lot of stuff to say, sometimes I'll send an email shortly before the meeting (preferably long enough before that people might have time to read it) and then at the meeting I'll just briefly mention the email, hopefully motivating people to read it if they hadn't already.

        I don't mind if meetings ramble somewhat; that can be productive. But if I feel it's getting into conversations that could more usefully be carried out among a subset of the people present, and if I'm not the chairperson, I might just ask "Are we following the agenda?" or something to get people back on track.

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        • #5
          I agree with the fine delineation of meeting-control methods outlined by mhm802 and cwoodgold.

          I would add one more: If a discussion thread is veering too far from the topic or the time alloted, don't be afraid to say, "We should take that item off-line afterwards" or "That is an interesting issue; let's meet afterwards to set up a future meeting focused on just that topic."

          I hope this helps.

          Joe

          Comment


          • #6
            SCRUM parking lot

            Originally posted by radioman View Post
            I would add one more: If a discussion thread is veering too far from the topic or the time alloted, don't be afraid to say, "We should take that item off-line afterwards" or "That is an interesting issue; let's meet afterwards to set up a future meeting focused on just that topic."
            In SCRUM (an agile method mostly used in software development), that is called PARKING LOT. In a 15min_limit daily meeting, if someone has an off-topic issue, it will go to a space in the white board called PARKING LOT. Iff there's time left in the end (from the 15min_limit), it will be discussed.

            Adding to all that's been said, note that meeting management has a part that has to do with action_management and another at least equally important part that has to do with emotional_management. Often the first won't be enough, and the second can't really be address simply during the meeting.

            Also consider cultural environment: managing a meeting in Sweden is totally different from managing a meeting in Brazil or India (where all those system rules normally don't really work).

            After reading around 20 books on meeting-management, I've finally found a great read on this theme that really shows some expertise beyond the obvious well-kown-impossible-to-do-best-practices: Allan Barker: How to Manage Meetings, giving proper attention to the social part of meetings. The best I found in this field so far.

            Final comment: sometimes the concept of "traditional meeting" (like a weekly group status report) gets mixed with the concept of "group work session" (like when 2 or 3 people are creating a prototype or whatever). Those should be handled in a totally different way. Sometimes meetings show symptom of lack of group-work-sessions: make them happen!

            Gonçalo Gil Mata
            www.WHATsTheTRICK.com

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            • #7
              Thanks for your insight and ideas

              Just wanted to express my thanks for the suggestions and ideas. Running an effective meeting really is a bit of a balancing act and developing a sense for when things should be reined in and when an off-topic ramble is productive comes with experience of a given team dynamic. mhm802, your rules list is wonderful and I have been checking my habits against it. And goncalomata -- impressed with your commitment to meeting management strategies (20 books!).

              Again, thank you one and all for your insight and ideas.

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