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How to keep your meetings efficient

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Whether it is formal or casual; in person or via video cam; one to one or in a group format the value of effective, recorded communication in a meeting is key. There may be many reasons for a meeting to take place but most meetings are ineffective without a purpose and agreed objectives.

If a meeting is called formally and numerous guests (internal or external) are invited Ive come to realize the benefit of establishing an agenda before the meeting and taking action notes throughout the meeting. In my companies we actually apply templates for an agenda and actions notes to be recorded in a structured and comprehensive method. 

They help to maximise the results of any meeting, and invariably maximise the value of business in the process. (Have you worked out the cost of the meetings you call for That somewhat focuses the mind.)

If there are missing persons during important meetings, get a note writer and have messages emailed to absentees. During all company updates make sure a confirmatory email summarising key announcements follows, for everyone to read and take in.

Engagement is difficult to engender in a company, and sometimes you need to set standards and always encourage a cross-view of opinions. I used to hold impromptu meetings, the sort where I would simply enter one side of the office area and ask people to stop what they were doing and come to the other side and have a casual wanted to let you know” (and ask any questions) session. Every meeting people came with pen and paper, and I would often also make something up to encourage participation of some kind in everything we did.

The impromptu meetings that I used to call as we grew were frighteningly powerful. I would ask a random group of individuals to give me feedback on any range of topics.

They might include products, some of my battier marketing ideas, any bugbears I might be having, and often brainstorms for a particular presentation or offer that we were putting together. 

Sometimes I gathered a group of suspects in the office simply because I was lonely while putting together a big scary offer and I wanted to show the team what I was progressing. I suppose I was showing off to some extent, but I was always looking to improve and many brains are better than one.

Stay fit and walk and talk for straightforward meetings. Many of the Pacific team kept trainers at work and walked and talked during lunchtimes. This is not just a way of keeping costs down, but a sanity stride round the park can also do wonders for refreshing the mind.

Pre-planning with targeted success ensures you focus on maximising your potential.
Reduce time wasted in follow-up by utter clarity during face-to-face meetings to ensure you have not wasted your efforts.

I ate, drank, and educated myself and others in my car on the way to and from meetings. Time spent with team members was always an opportunity for organised catch-up in all sorts of ways. We would carry a note pad, write actions and laugh a bit at the madness of it all.

Turn your phone off, and not just in all meetings out of courtesy. Do it at times when you really need to get a job done.

Never be embarrassed to take notes. Summarise actions at the end of a meeting (use the same document internally and externally). Get it circulated and actions delegated fast and follow up next time as should be expected. Productivity and continual improvement should be embedded in your culture.

For sit down, planned meetings companies will accelerate potential through better, focused organisation of meeting, thereby maximising the benefit from meetings. 

1. Plan. 

Advanced notification meeting with more than 2 people requires even a rough meeting agenda. 
Understand the objective.
Know what you want to achieve.

2. Communicate.

Inform people what is to be discussed (in advance)
Inform people what outcomes are expected

3. Prepare and circulate (in advance) an agenda with:

Logical sequence
Priorities identified and clearly titled
Expected timescales for each topic
Preparation in view of discussion (circulated)
Methodology of consideration (PowerPoint / sampling / open forum / document advance supplied)

4. Control (appointed recognised leader and timekeeper)

Keep people to the point

Stop side meetings (respect each others point)

5. Record

Write down every decision or agreed action and identify responsibilities and timescales (Then circulate as soon as possible the actions to all parties involved) 

What is the next follow up meeting on which first point is review of the above (Type these during the meeting for speed )

Lara Morgan founded Pacific Direct in 1991 and sold it in 2008 for 20m. She is also the founder of business coaching firm Company Shortcuts. 

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