Taking the Lead in Meetings Requires a Lot of Homework

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How to Conduct Better Meetings

Surveys have indicated that a typical meeting attendee views them as being 2.3 times as long as they should be. Since meetings are vital to a project's success, the secret lies in simply making them more efficient.

We've often discussed the importance of preparation in making sure that your meetings are productive instead of just a tedious waste of time. But all the preparation in the world won't help you if there's not a strong voice of leadership in the meeting to help maintain focus, direction and decorum if things get a little heated.


What's the best way to ensure that such leadership is in place for your next meeting? Even more preparation, according to our partners at project management community site gantthead.com.


Its Checklist for Maintaining Leadership in Meetings offers a level of meeting detail prep that only a project manager could love, but will be great value to you if you've found that your meetings are running a little off the rails lately. The three-page Word template is available for free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library.


If the checklist has a theme, it is that advance communication is essential in making a meeting a success. In fact, it suggests sending out your agenda and other pre-meeting communications no less than a week before the actual scheduled meeting. Depending on your corporate culture, that might come as a shock to some attendees, but it will give them time to prepare and digest the meeting collateral you have prepared.


As far as that pre-meeting communication goes, it should be comprehensive. The checklist includes a two-phase worksheet for setting the agenda, and then going back and refining that agenda.



In short, the sheet suggests mapping all agenda points to a well-established business goal, then determining the key points of conversation that need to happen to reach a resolution.


Some of the other pearls of meeting management wisdom from the checklist include:


Before the meeting happens, be sure to make it clear to everyone which issues will not be covered. Scope creep is a killer for meetings, just as it is for any other project.


During the meeting, ask the group "Is this discussion helping us get to the results for this part of the meeting?" when you appear to be going off course.


After the meeting, be sure to follow up with attendees who were assigned action items following the meeting.


Remember that this checklist is written from the perspective of a PM who is running a tech meeting, that literally might encompass thousands of dollars of staff time that otherwise could be devoted to writing and testing code. And unproductive meetings are a bane to everybody - putting a little more planning than you currently put into your meetings is a good idea, no matter what your role in the company.

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