I’ve written posts on managing agendas. That’s all pretty fundamental. But there’s a whole other side to this. There’s a role for everyone attending the meeting to participate – not too much, not too little.
I think it’s fair to say, “you’re paid to express your opinion.” Or, in the case of, say, a non-profit board, “you’re voted in to express your opinion.” To do this, you need to set aside the commonly-held disdain for meetings and personally help to make them successful.
- Provide input on the agenda. Often a draft agenda is circulated; sit back for a moment and think about what really needs to be discussed and acted upon at this point in time. Often an item is missed because the person crafting the agenda thinks there’s nothing to talk about. However, that in itself may be reason to ask for it to be added. Lack of progress on, say, a special project is not excuse enough to remove it from the agenda; there may be things the group needs to intervene on to get it back on track.
- Look at the agenda and jot down points you want to make sure are covered. Be prepared to raise them yourself. Don’t let someone else drive the agenda. Taking a few quiet moments ahead of the meeting helps to make sure that important topics don’t get missed or glossed over.
- Take the time necessary to review any attachments that come with the agenda. Yes, it may seem like the last thing you want to spend time on, but it’s this very thing that actually helps to propel things forward. Don’t waste other people’s time by asking questions at the meeting that can be answered by reading the material. Instead, read it and jot down any questions and concerns that really should be talked about while everyone’s present. Otherwise you run the risk of items being carried forward from meeting to meeting – which is why people hate meetings…
- Show up on time and be prepared to start right away.
- Show a modicum of enthusiasm to help set the tone that meetings can be – and should be – extremely productive and rewarding. Even if there is a potentially unpleasant agenda item to be covered, tackle it as above-board as possible. It’s going to have to be dealt with at some point, so treat is as a necessary part of the purpose of the meeting.
- Be prepared to make constructive proposals on next steps for a given item rather than simply asking questions about status and taking things in circles. Is it a coincidence that a motion suggests movement?
- Similarly, have a basic knowledge, or at least awareness, of Roberts Rules. As pedantic as they may seem, they are designed to ensure a fair and efficient process for all to participate in and generating momentum.
- Finally, as the meeting is being recorded (have a competent minute-taker), make sure you feel confident that the action items are specific enough to guide the resulting activity that will become part of the agenda for the next meeting.
Since meetings form a critical element of strategic execution, treat them with the respect they deserve. Make them work for you, and for everyone else, and for the organization.