How to ace those meetings

Ask senior executives where they spend their least productive hours and they'll tell you it's in meetings, says Miranda Kennett.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 27 Oct 2015

If you're responsible for holding meetings and they're not effective, for your own sake and for all the attendees whose time you're wasting, now is the moment to get a grip.

The easiest way to do this is to apply the six 'wisdom access' questions to the problem, starting with the most important of all: why? Once you've clearly established the purpose of the meeting, everything else is easy. After all, form follows function.

WHY

are we having this meeting?

Is this meeting designed for information sharing? For decision-making? To generate action? To motivate? The purpose of some long-established meetings can get lost or drift. If a meeting has no relevant function, cancel it and find other ways of disseminating the content that don't tie up key resources, whether they are people, time or the venue.

WHO

needs to be at this meeting?

Are the key decision-makers going to be there? Do all the attendees have a role in the meeting and are they clear what it is? Whose meeting is it?

WHAT

is the desired outcome of the meeting?

So what is the necessary content of the meeting?

HOW

should we format this meeting?

Is this a formal occasion that requires a pre-circulated, written agenda and minutes? Or can it be informal? Is attendance mandatory or optional? Is some sort of catering appropriate? Some electronic methods of communicating are perfectly adequate for information-sharing, but don't hide behind emails for issues that demand a face-to-face encounter.

WHEN

is the best time to hold this meeting?

What time of the day/week/month/year is best for this meeting? How long does it need to be? A client of mine invented the three-minute 'corridor meeting' for quick decisions: no room needed to be booked, no coffee poured. The tyranny of electronic scheduling with 30 and 60-minute slots needs to be challenged.

WHERE

is the best place for this meeting to take place?

In the office? Off-site? By Skype? In the park?

The beauty of these six questions is that they adapt almost infinitely to make sense of all sorts of issues. For example, as a template for a marketing strategy, where the 'why' question outlines the problem marketing seeks to address, the 'who' question covers the target audience and 'where' is the media choice.

Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If there's a leadership issue you'd like her to address, contact her at miranda@mirandakennett.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mirandajkennett

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