IT professionals enjoy writing code and configuring networks.
Attending meetings, not so much.
Most professionals tend to think that meetings can be a waste of time (71 percent of Americans said as much in a survey last year), and IT pros are no different. In fact, they may be a little more impatient than most, given they do have a pretty full plate in front of them most days. Of course, meetings are a necessary part of any business. But they don't have to be a necessary evil, if you treat them like any other project that requires careful planning and has measurable success factors.
Our partners at gantthead.com offer a 4-page meeting checklist to help you prepare for your next meeting. The checklist, which is available for free download here in the IT Downloads library, is quite extensive - gantthead.com is a community site for project managers, and project managers are detail-oriented.
A key point of emphasis in the checklist is designing the format of the meeting based on its purpose. There are basically five categories of IT-centric meetings:
Each type of meeting should have a customized agenda and different expectations. For example, a design review might well run a little longer than the one hour commonly cited as the maximum length for an effective meeting; information exchange meetings should really never be that long.
The checklist also includes helpful tips on following up after a meeting, particularly one that may have gotten a little heated - which is not inherently a bad thing, by the way. Again, the key is to develop an actual plan of action for any meeting follow-up, not just a "how ya' doing" in the hallway.
If unproductive meetings are a problem in your shop (and they probably are), you should check out these other resources, also available for free download here in the IT Downloads library.
The Conducting Productive Meetings presentation from JWL Association Management offers several very specific tips about preparing for good meetings. For example, don't include an agenda item that is not ready to have an action plan attached to it - speculation and pre-planning are better left to other channels.
The How to Conduct Better Meetings tipsheet from project management specialist Michael D. Taylor offers 10 tips for meeting prep and follow-up. It also includes an extensive meeting critique form that covers a wide range of issues, from the quality of the agenda to the size of gathering to the presence of "meeting robbers," folks who take the meeting into unproductive directions.