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How to Host Productive Meetings

Independent contractors aren’t necessarily “independent” when it comes to work.  Whether it’s meeting with clients, project managers, or user groups, you’re always working with a variety of people and, as such, there’s no way to avoid countless meetings throughout a contract.

Many of us will probably agree, though, that meetings are costly.  They take up time and may not even accomplish anything, except potentially scheduling another useless meeting.

So, how can you make sure meetings aren’t wasting your time?  Let’s start by considering a few facts:

  • Meetings are necessary in any organization.

  • Most organizations are not very good at organizing, running and following up on meetings.

  • Most people who attend meetings are not 100% engaged, which wastes everybody’s time.

  • Most meetings don’t have a clear agenda, goals and desired outcomes.

  • Most meetings include people who don’t need to be there, many don’t include people who should be there.

  • When most meetings end, the participants very often walk away without another thought to what was discussed, and what was decided.

  • Many meetings result in the “genesis” of some very good ideas, but they go nowhere.

Productive Meeting

All of that considered, if you want to host productive meetings:

  1. Be very clear about what the meeting objective, together with a defined agenda and expected outcomes.  This exercise will also highlight whether the meeting is actually needed!

  2. All participants should be informed in plenty of time, armed with all of the background material necessary and arrive prepared.

  3. Everyone should understand the rules of the meeting. For example arrive on time, be prepared, phones turned off, total focus on the task at hand, input is expected and tolerance for everyone is also expected.  Group think is not expected or appreciated.

  4. Everyone should take notes, and one specific person should be assigned to take and distribute minutes.

  5. The meeting should not end before measurable action items are decided and assigned.

  6. If people are going to need to access phones during the meeting, then appropriate “intermission” time should be built in.

  7. Whoever is chairing the meeting should be skilled in (a) getting participation from the “quiet voices” and (b) ensuring the more extrovert participants don’t take over.

  8. Be very conscious that everyone’s time is precious!

Meetings solve problems, bring ideas, help companies get where they need to be, but they are expensive, so do them right! How do you keep meetings on track and productive?  What are your meeting pet peeves?