In many organizations, meetings are a notorious waste of time. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The secret of a successful meeting is planning.
I long ago came up with a checklist for planning meetings, and I can tell you that when I use it, I get better results and a more effective use of everyone's time.
If you're charged with planning meetings, you may have a similar checklist.
If not, use mine as a starting point to develop your own:
1. How often should we meet?
The pace varies widely depending on the group's charge. The most common structure is weekly or monthly meetings, but ask yourself if that's often enough to stay current--or too often to have a complete agenda.
2. What information should be shared?
How detailed does the information need to be? It's possible to overburden people with details, but generally when it comes to sharing information, more is more. Even confidential information may be appropriate to share if the group is small; doing so sends a message to your people that they can be trusted and are partners with you in the business.
3. Who should be invited?
Do you want to cast a wide net, or separate people by roles and responsibilities? Inclusion is good, but remember that when you include those who don't really need to be there, you're sending a message that you don't understand their role or value their time.
4. Who should speak?
Who knows the information best? Who can give a great presentation? Who represents the organization well? And--maybe most important question of all--who can be succinct?
5. Why are we meeting?
People deserve to know what is going on and how the organization is doing things, what changes are expected, and how it will affect them. Make sure people understand the scope, the agenda, and the need.
6. Where are we meeting?
I always believe the best meetings give a feeling of openness and inviting. Make sure the room has few distractions, especially unnecessary noise. A comfortable space that's not too cold or hot, one that can accommodate any equipment you need and the people you are inviting.
So the next time you want to talk to your team or communicate to your group, make the first step of the meeting a quick pass-through of this checklist (or your own).
Asking yourself how, what, who, why, and where will help you know the meeting will go well--because you planned it well.