Once meetings have become more outcome-focused and the time is being managed explicitly, there are several other guidelines that can be implemented in order to maintain a strong focus on outcomes. None of these are essential, but all will serve to increase meeting effectiveness:
- When the purpose of the meeting is clear and the criteria for successful achievement have been defined, the people most critical for its success should be the only ones invited, rather than everyone on a standard list.
- Ensure that papers that should be read before the meeting are delivered in sufficient time for them to be read. Assume that all papers have been read by all attendees. If a paper has not been read by one of the team members, that person cannot prolong the discussion by ‘busking’. (Conversely if a team member has nothing to contribute on a subject they don’t need to read the papers – but must stay silent).
- If accepted at all, ‘Any Other Business’ should be declared (along with desired outcomes) at the start of the meeting, timing estimates provided, and the items incorporated into the timings for the whole meeting. If new papers are tabled, sufficient time for reading them needs to be allocated too.
- Be prepared to defer an item until a future meeting if there is insufficient time available and everything else on the agenda is sufficiently important to justify the time allocated to it.
- Take regular time-outs are to check progress and appropriateness of what’s going on. The underlying question is: “Is what we’re doing right now taking us closer to achieving our desired outcome?” A quick “how are we doing?” from the chair will usually provide sufficient evidence to stop/change/continue a discussion.
- If all else fails, and it is essential, plan to extend the total time for the meeting – but do this as early as possible so that people know how long they will be required for.
- Ensure that any conclusions reached and specific actions allocated are recorded with names and time criteria.
- Consider whether the meeting can be held either without a table or with participants standing. This approach works particularly well with project related meetings.