Thursday, September 30, 2010

How To Run a Meeting

Is there a word for the moment you realize that you’re good at something because you’re watching someone else completely fuck it up?  I ask for two reasons: 1) I’m too lazy to do an Internet search.  2) This happens to me all the time.  I’m good at a lot of things and other people are terrible at a lot of things.  I could make a list of all the things I’m awesome at but no one has an attention span that long. (Oh my, that’s an awfully long attention span.  Tee hee.)  Instead, I’ll talk about one of those moments I had recently.

In real life (because this blog isn’t real life) I’m a project manager.  I spend a lot of time running meetings.  I know that I’m pretty good at running meetings, but I didn’t realize how good until last week.  I called into a meeting scheduled to be an hour long.  One hundred minutes later, the meeting ended.  Now, I should have bailed out at the 60 minute mark but I was morbidly curious.  I wanted to witness the new and inventive ways the guy running the meeting would come up with to make the meeting longer and let it spin even further out of control.  It was like being at a clinic for how not to run a meeting. 

Since I’m so good at running meetings, I thought I’d share with you my tips for running a good meeting:

1) Remember that people hate meetings.  Ask yourself if the meeting is really necessary.  Could you take care of the issue with an email or phone conversation?  If so, do that.  Don’t waste everyone’s time in a meeting.  The best meeting is the one that's never held.

2) Ask yourself if you really need a full hour.  Chances are everything could be discussed in thirty minutes — especially if you stay on topic.  You almost never need a full hour for a meeting.

3) Create and publish an agenda prior to the meeting.  Everyone should know what is being discussed so that they can come prepared.

4) Stick to the agenda.  Do not stray no matter how interesting the topic might be.  You can always have another discussion about that super interesting (but probably not important) topic later.  I can’t stress how important this is.

5) Do not be afraid to cut people off.  If they are not staying on topic, stop them.  Everyone else will appreciate you not letting someone else waste their time.  Don’t be a dick, but be firm.

6) Finish before the allotted time.  If you follow the first five tips, this will be no problem.  Everyone will love you for giving them some time back and they’ll want to come to your meetings in the future.  This means you have to start on time.

7) Take notes and publish them after the meeting.  Do this however you like.  Create some kind of issues log that people can review.  This way the things you discussed in the meeting will continue to exist outside the meeting and everyone will be held accountable.

8) Don’t schedule meetings at 4pm on Friday.  No one wants to go to a meeting then and no one will be paying attention.  It’s best to wait until Monday.  Also, don’t schedule meetings at 9am on Mondays for the same reason.  People aren’t ready yet.

That’s how you run a freaking meeting.  Awesome, right?  Not really…  I know, I know.

Great.  Now I’m sad because I’m bragging about how good I am at running meetings.

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