How to Have a Productive Meeting

Dear Ms. D:

Our office has gone meeting-crazy! As if it's not bad enough that we have so many meetings that no one can get any work done, there are people who think they have to be at every meeting, whether they're invited or not. They'll just show up to things because they think they should be there, which leads to some awkward situations. One time, someone was told point blank it was a closed meeting, and he wasn't to be there -- and he refused to leave! How do you kick out people who don't need to be in a meeting?



Dear Sara:

It sounds as if your meetings are somewhat too casual. Try preparing a meeting agenda. That may seem like a chore; however, it's a useful tool that can help solve your problem. The agenda is set by the meeting chair, who should circulate it a couple of days in advance. That gives participants time to adequately prepare. The circulated agenda memo should include only those individuals who are involved in decision-making and implementation of the projects to be discussed.

Should an uninvited player show up, it's up to the chair to speak with him or her and bring the meeting back to its intended size. If a private conversation is possible, great. That might sound like, "Terry, thanks for your interest in this meeting. In order to be most efficient, it's important that only those people crucial to the agenda items participate. For now, I'm sure you appreciate having this block of time for your own activities."

Just for review and reminders, here are the other tasks of the meeting chair:

1) Make sure the meeting room is conducive to effectiveness. That means it should be clean and well-lit.

2) Make sure everyone involved in the meeting has sufficient background material in advance so they'll have time to read and digest it.

3) Make sure all participants have been introduced to one another.

4) Be mindful of the clock and the agenda.

5) Summarize the key points at meeting's end and restate the consensus.

6) Make sure each participant leaves the meeting with a clear picture of the next steps.

7) Set the date for the next meeting and make sure participants understand it.

8) Thank everyone for their participation and attendance.

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