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Effective and Productive Meetings – Three critical factors

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    Communication is an essential part of all human beings and effective and productive meetings are one of the major parts of communication. Especially it becomes critically important in business life and when you’re in the management role or need to make negotiations with business partners.

    In this topic, we are going to isolate the three most important factors for efficient and productive meetings. Generally, there are many things that need to be considered for successful meetings, but not only three factors. Such things include but not limited to the goal, right people, agenda, time boxing, right place and time, summary, subject matter expertise, meeting notes, and others. But, what is the three most critical or in other words “must-have” items that would allow performing any meeting on a solid level?

    Effective and Productive Meetings – Let’s dig to find out.

    ? Goal.
    Can we say that a meeting could happen if there is not a well-defined goal? Well, theoretically some sort of event where folk attends could happen. But this would-be utopia, a discussion with no direction and understanding what we are all doing here. Even if there is a problem that you don’t know how to resolve, the right goal would be to discuss the problem and determine the way to resolve it.

    Summary: No well-defined goal, means there will be no meeting. Critical!

    ?‍?‍? Right people.
    It would be unreasonable to discuss an issue with people who have no clue about it. Sometimes, it may happen that you need to have someone to be presented at the meeting, the person who can be a decision-maker and if you know that this person has a lack of understanding of the question, it would be good to make a dedicated private introduction of the subject to that person. Thus, you can expect that after some introduction to the subject, a particular person can contribute to the meeting and make a decision if it’s expected. Additionally, people who are not related to the question will simply waste their time setting on the meeting and in the worse case scenarios may even try to create unproductive noise.

    Summary: Even if the audience of the meeting is not selected properly but key people are presented, the productive meeting more likely to happen considering the risks described.

    ✔️ Agenda.
    OK, we have a well-defined goal which is a critical factor for the meeting. Now it’s time to create an agenda for the meeting or in other words plan how to reach the goal (example: how to resolve the problem). One of the most important things of a good agenda is to explorer the nature of the issue and lead a common understanding between all attendees. Furthermore, a good agenda should address the steps needed to resolve the problem, their pros & cons, and potential outcome. In an ideal case, scenario Agenda should be delivered to all the potential meeting attendees in advance, so that they can get into it and be ready for the discussion in a more productive way.

    Summary: The agenda is a critical factor for a productive meeting. Having only a goal with no Agenda could lead you to stuck and you won’t know how to drive the meeting toward the goal.

    ? Time boxing.
    Time is the money and everybody heard that saying. It’s absolutely true of the meeting. First, when you are inviting someone to the meeting, you should understand that you are taking people away from other things (maybe from more important things or their direct duties stuff for which they are getting paid). That’s why it is also important to invite the right people so that they can contribute or at least have a stake in the discussion. Second, is that when people aware that the duration of the meeting is time-limited, they will try to express their thoughts more precisely without unneeded details.

    Summary: Time-boxing is a really important factor, but it’s not a critical factor absence of which will lead to unproductive meetings considering that critical factors are available.

    ? Right place and time.
    It is a good tone to schedule meetings at the right time when the right people will be available and in the right place so that no one will not disturb the discussion. However, if it’s a critical question that needs to be discussed immediately, let the meeting happen no matter it’s an office hall or your cabin in an open space (or hell, joke ? ).

    Summary: Right place and time are really important as attendance of the audience are very dependent on this, but this is not a breaker for meeting in emergency cases…

    ? Meeting summary.
    I’ve been attending many meetings and continue to do this and I continue to see that even experienced managers relatively often missing this part. Even if the meeting was maintained properly it’s necessary to summarize the results of the meeting to make sure that all attendees aligned on the meeting summary. Ideally, the meeting summary should also include action items that should be delegated to people who will be responding to them or a conclusion that fulfills the goal of the meeting. If for whatever reason there were no well-defined summary with action items, then topics that were covered should be documented with the major comments on them, so the next time you won’t need to start from scratch and will be able to refer to what was discussed and commented.

    Summary: The meeting summary is a critical key to a productive and efficient meeting. Even a healthy discussion that went fine will be just another waste of time without a summary which should consider the action items that will lead to toward the meeting goal.

    ? Subject expertise.
    The meeting will be much productive if the subject experts will be attended. Though, it’s a kind of common sense factor to invite so-called right people to the meeting who could actively contribute and help to find an efficient way to resolve the issue.

    Summary: It’s important, though it can’t be considered as critical for many reasons. For example, the final decision-makers who may be invited to the meeting may rely on your expertise as you could be considered as the most experienced person in a particular scope. Also, it is possible that there are no other experts in your organization that could challenge you in a particular scope fair enough. Anyway, it’s necessary that attendees understand the purpose of the question at least on a high level.

    ? Meeting notes.
    It’s an excellent tone to write down the major things and topics discussed. Thus, it’s very unlikely that something will be missed.
    Summary: The meeting note is good to have attributes of an efficient and productive meeting. Nevertheless, it’s only optional considering that Meeting Summary is the must-have critical thing!

    Of course, there are more other factors that are not covered here. In the scope of this topic, we reviewed the major only.

    So let’s summarize and outline the most critical 3 factors for a productive and effective meeting.

    1️⃣ Goal (What I am trying to resolve/achieve)
    2️⃣ Agenda (Intro to the issue and plan toward the goal)
    3️⃣ Summary (Conclusion with a number of action items toward the goal or intermediate point)

    Tags: meetings
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    Alex Kostritsa

    About author
    My name is Alex. For more than 10 last years I've been worked in the role of Project Manager in an Agile environment. I have experience working with different business domains including e-commerce, social networks, and gambling. As a Software Manager, I try to keep myself tuned and continue self-development.
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    • Odessa, Ukraine