MEETINGS: WHERE MINUTES ARE KEPT AND HOURS ARE LOST

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings‘ ~ Dave Barry

A meeting can loosely be defined as an assembly of people for a particular purpose, especially for formal discussion.

How many types of meetings are there?

The following three types seem to be the most popular.

  • Formal Meetings such as Audit, Risk & Compliance, monthly Management Meetings, etc.;
  • Problem-solving Meetings such as Site Progress, Database Cleanup process, etc.;
  • Ad Hoc Meetings which includes briefings and information sessions.
What is the ideal composition of a meeting?

The composition of a meeting depends on the purpose or type of meeting.  The ideal number of attendees are seven to twelve.  Should more people attend, you run the risk of the meeting dragging on without your objective being met in the time you want.  It is also wasteful to have people attending who will not contribute.  Briefing or informative meetings (ad hoc) can involve a larger number of attendees without problems.

How long should a meeting last?

Meetings that last longer than two hours rarely achieve good results.  Attendees cannot concentrate for such a long time.   

What are the duties of the Chairman?
  • Clarifies the role of every attendee;
  • Establishes ground rules;
  • Follows the agenda and controls the time;
  • Has the power to stop disagreements and to direct the discussions elsewhere (change format);
  • Pushes for accountability;
  • Summarise regularly;
  • Terminate time-wasting discussions;
  • Ensures that individual requirements are met.
What are the duties of the Facilitator?
  • Focuses the group on the same issues;
  • Ensures participation from everyone;
  • Regulates discussion traffic;
  • Monitors time spent on each point;
  • Suggests alternative methods;
  • Protects people and their ideas from attack;
  • Remains neutral during disagreement;
  • Guides and motivates the group to come to a consensus.
What are the duties of the Participant?
  • Confirms attendance;
  • Arrives on time;
  • Shares useful ideas;
  • Support rules and meeting guidelines;
  • Helps to reach group consensus;
  • Keeps an open mind;
  • Can assist the facilitator in avoiding distractions.
Whom should I invite to meetings?
  • Subject matter experts;
  • Key decision-makers;
  • People’s whose jobs will be directly affected by any decisions made.
Who should I NOT invited to meetings:
  • Disrupters;
  • People who are unaffected by any decision made;
  • Those who feel left out not being invited.
What is the purpose of the Agenda?

An agenda establishes the objectives of the meeting, confirms the logistics: date, time, venue and length of the meeting.  It also determines the attendees and assigns tasks to the attendees.

Agenda should be distributed prior to the commencement of the meeting.  This allows the attendees to prepare for the meeting and so save time during the meeting.

When would I NOT call a meeting?
  • When the decision has already been made – yes, this happens more often than you would like to believe;
  • When the subject is trivial;
  • When key people are not available.
How should I behave towards others during a meeting?
  • Be tactful and courteous at all times;
  • Be prepared to let others have their say;
  • Be patient;
  • Be good-humoured;
  • Give as much constructive input as possible.
How should I behave while speaking?
  • Look up as you speak;
  • Look at everyone in turn;
  • Be clear and loud enough;
  • Be definite – mean what you say;
  • Be precise;
  • Summarise the problem and position reached;
  • Provide a solution.
When I listen to others I should:
  • Hear others’ point of view;
  • Understand what is being said.
When I contribute during the meeting I should:
  • Put forward a new idea, concept or suggestion;
  • Not use the ‘why not’ technique.
How do I support others during a meeting?
  • Agree with others’ point of view at the appropriate time.
But what happens if I disagree?
  • Put forward an opposing point of view, but motivate why;
  • Be constructive, not destructive;
  • Avoid scoring points; don’t just talk for the sake of talking;
  • Never attack personal issues.  You should take any pertaining to personal issues outside of the meeting.
How do I gather information?
  • Ask questions;
  • Obtain facts, opinions or clarifications.
How do I give information?
  • Offer facts, opinions and suggestions;
  • Ensure understanding of points.

Respect the role of the Chairperson at all times!

Signs of badly-conducted meetings
  • The agenda is not clear;
  • Unaffected people are invited to attend;
  • More than six people are expected to reach consensus;
  • Some participants continually say nothing;
  • Requests for information are stalled or put off;
  • Decisions are made without designating a person who should complete the task by a specific time;
  • The chairman allows the discussion to be more operational than decision-making;
  • The chairman leaves the meeting to take a phone call.
 Ad Hoc Meetings

Ad hoc can be called without any prior notice or planning and does not usually have a pre-prepared agenda and therefore tends to be disorganised.  Usually, the purpose is to give information, to receive information or to solve problems.

Use the following headings on a flipchart to highlight the purpose of your ad hoc meeting: 

 Name

 Subject Purpose Time SpentAction by Whom

Vicky

Client Appreciation Function

Finalise Client Attendees

40 minutes

Claudia

Bruce

Computer Security

Upgrading system

20 minutes

Vusi

BongiYear-end FunctionTeam Building options30 minutesMark

 Remember that ad hoc meeting should always have a chairman, otherwise there will be chaos and you will waste everyone’s time.