The first thing to consider, before even scheduling a meeting, is its objective. Many organizations have regular weekly or monthly staff, committee, or departmental meetings at the same time and place regularly. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the objective of those meetings is clear. Perhaps the objective is simply to share status reports – who’s working on what? Who needs help? What came up this week that everyone should be aware of? Other meetings are convened more impulsively, with the objective of making a decision or brainstorming about something specific. As long as the meeting has a clear purpose, it’s worth having.
Next, the person who called the meeting needs to allow everyone to participate. Have you ever been to a meeting where one person dominates the conversation, and even goes so far off-topic that the meeting turns into a big waste of time? It is the role of the meeting facilitator (who may or may not be the person who called the meeting in the first place) to work the flow of the conversation, to keep everyone on-topic, and to encourage everyone to participate. That person needs to be aware of how much time each participant gets, when creative brainstorming has gone off-topic, and how and when to draw out those who are present but not participating.
Another thing to consider is meeting space and setup. For a quick Monday morning “here’s the plan for this week” meeting, perhaps it is appropriate for the staff to stand up around the break room for five minutes. For a mid-week status report meeting, you may need a board room with chairs and a half hour. For a meeting to brainstorm ideas for a new service, you may want to go as far as setting up computer equipment like a laptop and projector. The space and setup should reflect the objective of the meeting.
Finally, follow-through and follow-up are crucial. If someone needs to take and report meeting minutes, that should be made as efficient as possible. Some organizations use a staff blog to share minutes so that information is as transparent and accessible as possible. In other places and certain types of meetings, the information is sensitive and should not be shared outside of the meeting attendants. (Disciplinary meetings, for example.) Also, specific people should be assigned “action items” and required to follow through on those assignments. Subsequent communications or meetings may be necessary to share outcomes, and managers need to follow up with staff about work assigned in meetings. It is equally annoying to spend time in a meeting and come up with great ideas, only to have someone drop the ball completely.
Meetings are a necessary part of most work environments because they foster communication. Running an effective meeting is a skill that will lead a staff to greater success. It will also create trust in the leaders who run them – trust that staff time is appreciated and valuable, and that the work being done in the organization matches its mission and goals.