Attending a meeting doesn’t have to be pointless!

One of my pet hates attending a pointless meeting! When I receive a meeting request I ask five critical questions before sending my acceptance.

1.  Does it have an aim?

There has to be a specific reason for attending a meeting. My skills and knowledge must be needed in some way to achieve its aim. Without understanding how I can contribute, I can find myself wasting time and wishing I was somewhere else using my time more productively.

Every meeting should state and communicate its purpose. Meetings that have clear aims and outcomes set the right tone and environment for success.

2.  Does it have a timed Agenda?

I will instantly refuse any meeting that does not have an agenda. Without an agenda, the meeting aim is unclear or non-existent. Discussions will become side-tracked as they have no pre-defined focus or time limit. No attendee can prepare without a detailed structure.

An agenda plays a crucial role in keeping everyone focused on the purpose of the meeting. It clearly outlines the time allocation for each item and guides attendees in how they should best prepare. An agenda needs to tell people if the meeting will invite debate or clarify a situation.

3.  Are the communications clear?

Alarm bells ring if the meeting request does not communicate how my attendance or contribution will help achieve the aims of the meeting.

Has the request given me sufficient time to prepare my contribution or thoughts?

Do the time and date give me sufficient time to conclude current activities which are going to be discussed? If not, is my time better spent getting on with the job at hand rather than participating in discussions that could result in me receiving more work?

There can be circumstances where your attendance is compulsory, and those reasons should be explained in the original request.

4.  Historically, is the meeting timely?

From experience, does the person requesting your attendance start their meetings on time? Do all the participants arrive prepared and punctually?

If not, then I seriously consider refusing the request even if the aim is precise. This is because the behaviour of other attendees will result in delays and interruptions that will make the meeting an ineffective use of my time.

Once I have committed to a meeting, I make sure that I prepare thoroughly and arrive on time.

5.  How well managed is the meeting?

Does the meeting have a chairperson? Are they effective in this role? I prefer to attend a meeting where I know a capable chairperson is running it.

Without someone carefully managing discussions, timekeeping and summarizing items, a meeting can quickly switch from an efficient operation to a free-for-all! A good chairperson keeps everyone focused on the meeting’s purpose and agenda.

Using my meeting agenda checklist, I try to ensure the meetings I attend or hold effectively use everyone’s time.

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I head the FME team of management and IT professionals from a variety of backgrounds both commercial and non-profit organizations. As a team we are keen to share our expertise and knowledge with individuals at all levels of management. Each eBook, template and checklist has been written to help individuals develop the competencies they need for a successful career.