Project Management For Dummies
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In today’s business world, it’s not only what you do, but how you do it that’s important. So, being able to successfully run a meeting is as important as what you cover in it. Here are some tips for preparing for and facilitating a meeting that gets things done.

Decide on the best way to hold the meeting

Most people don’t like to go to meetings; they disrupt work flow and are generally inconvenient. When planning a meeting, ask yourself if a face-to-face gathering of people is really necessary. Can you accomplish your goal on a conference call?

A meeting that has binders or other handouts or is scheduled to last more than an hour should be done face-to-face. Meeting to delegate known tasks between peers or to discuss followup actions required in an ongoing project can and should be done electronically. Everyone will thank you for respecting their time whether they say so or not.

Spend twice as long planning the meeting as you expect it to last

Be prepared. The old Boy Scout motto will never cease to be relevant! A good rule of thumb is to allow twice the amount of the expected meeting duration for preparation time. You may not need it all, but if you’ve blocked out the time in your schedule, you'll be able to handle the details of meeting planning without stressing out or taking it home.

Being ill-prepared for a simple meeting is not only embarrassing but also won’t get you considered for a more responsible position in your company.

Stick to an agenda with a timeline

Create an agenda that lists all the pertinent issues that will be covered and the amount of time allowed for each. Have a watch or clock in your line of sight and move the meeting onward when the time for each topic is consumed.

Some people love to hear themselves talk; others are passionate about a subject near and dear to their hearts. Too bad. Cut them off and carry on. Remember that you can always come back to a subject after all else has been covered.

Don't overuse technology

Binders full of supporting color graphics and data or a well-designed PowerPoint presentation can dazzle an audience, and they each have their place in business. But bringing tech into a meeting costs time and money, and your bosses won’t appreciate either being wasted. Before you arrange for expensive printing or put a lot of effort into other audio/visual aids, be certain that it will add value to the meeting.

Plan breaks

For meetings longer than 2 hours, your agenda should have bio-breaks built in. Make them realistic. Is the restroom next to the conference room or across the building? Factor in enough time for your attendees to be able to be comfortable. Consider whether your attendees will need some time to check e-mail or return calls during the break time.

Have bottled water either on the table or on a sideboard. If the meeting is scheduled for more than 2 hours, have snacks like peanuts of cookies available.

Arrange the meeting room to your benefit

As the facilitator or chair of your meeting, all eyes should be on you. Arrange the seating so that all the participants are facing you and whatever whiteboards or screens you'll use. If you'll be writing on a whiteboard or using a projector, a podium may make it easier for you to move about in front of the group while keeping your notes organized and handy.

Invite only the necessary people

Don’t invite more people than you need to accomplish the purpose, but don’t forget essential players either. Look at the meeting's purpose and write out who the decision-makers are and get them there. Keep the list short. Check your list of potential attendees with your boss or mentor if you have any doubts about your selections.

Prepare opening and closing remarks

Open your meeting with a few comments that frame the purpose of the meeting. Make eye contact with as many attendees as possible while speaking, and keep it friendly. If you're good with humor, use it. Close the meeting with a recap of events and thank the attendees for their time and efforts.

Ensure that all participants are heard

Every meeting has both outgoing people who are willing to contribute without being prodded and introverted types who don’t chime in unless called upon to do so or until they've had a chance to absorb and examine the information.

Your job as meeting facilitator is to ensure that no single person dominates the conversation and that the quiet members get called upon to contribute. Simply saying, “I’d like to hear from Sam (the quiet person) on the subject at hand,” can accomplish both purposes.

Take minutes and distribute them to attendees

Your meeting has a purpose, and what is done to reach that goal needs to be recorded. Keep notes of decisions made and who is going to do what. List concerns and compliments as offered by the group. Recap the results of the meeting before adjourning.

After the meeting, write up a report of your notes and circulate it to the attendees as soon as possible. Be sure to give credit where credit is due and keep a copy of the minutes along with a copy of the agenda in your files.

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