For about 70% of us - and about 80% of the time - the only good meeting is one of our own meetings or a canceled meeting for anyone else. Like I say about phone calls – only one party really is ready for the call and wants the call…that’s the caller. For the receiver, it’s an interruption. The same is true for meetings – unless they are planned weekly meetings that everyone is already counting on anyway.
So, you need to call a meeting and you want maximum attendance so you need to make it count. Here are four key steps to go through to prepare for, conduct, and follow-up on a great meeting so you have high attendance, high participation, and accurate understanding from everyone as they walk out the door.
Plan out the topic/agenda. Never go into the meeting cold and wing it. You’ll get the reputation as the bad or clueless meeting facilitator and the attendance level at your future meetings will not be what you hope for. Be prepared. Plan out the topics carefully to generate discussion, disseminate the information you need to give out, get the information or status updates you need to get back, discuss the big issues, and talk about any action items or assignments made during the meeting before you dismiss everyone. If you run meetings this way every time, your attendees will remember you for running efficient, effective and productive meetings. And they will keep coming back.
Distribute agenda in advance. It’s critical that you get the meeting agenda out to all participants and stakeholders in advance. Some may need time to adequately prepare information and status updates that they will be expected to share during the meeting discussions. The last thing you want is for someone critical to the meeting or project to skip the meeting just because they didn’t have time to prepare and were afraid of being called on and looking foolish. Always give them time to prepare – and that is usually at least a day…preferably 2-3 days, if possible.
Conduct the meeting – no doughnuts. Conduct the meeting – and don’t bring doughnuts. You want to be taken seriously – and not be the food person. Plus, doughnuts make everyone sleepy…especially in afternoon meetings. Actually, you should avoid afternoon meetings if at all possible. Attendees are tired and want to go home. Your meeting will be their last stop on the way to their cars so their concentration level will be low…as will likely be their participation level. Shoot for mid-morning – that’s the time of highest productivity. One critical key to conducting a good meeting: stick to the topics and schedule. Don’t allow stray discussions, start on time, and end on time….usually trying not to plan for any more than a 30-60 minute meeting. If people know you won’t sequester them for hours, then they are far more likely to show up.
Follow-up after the meeting. Finally, take good notes and always follow-up with those notes to all attendees and any other key stakeholders who weren’t in attendance. Show what came out of the meeting – updates, decisions, assignments and key concerns. And ask for feedback on accuracy – you want everyone to be on the same page. Give them 24 hours to respond and if any changes come back to you, redistribute revised notes to everyone.
Summary / call for feedback
There’s no such thing as the perfect meeting or 100% attendance every time. But if you stick to good meeting preparation and practices, you will be enhancing your reputation as a great meeting facilitator. Invitees will know your meetings matter and aren’t a waste of their time…and you’ll get them in their seats more often than not.
How about our readers? What are your tricks for ensuring high meeting attendance and participation? What has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past?