As an involved Student of Seattle University meetings are a part of my everyday life. How well I present myself, my ideas and how I work with others effect how productive the meeting will be. However we all know that a meeting tend to be boring, unproductive and in some cases a complete waste of time. The question is how can we avoid meaningless meetings, and how do we plan for effective ones?

Why are you meeting?

In order to avoid unproductive meetings you want to avoid meeting about information that can be given in an email or memo. What is important to having an effective meeting is being able to differentiate between one-way information dissemination and two-way information sharing. Regular information dissemination can be given through a variety of ways that do not involve meetings such as; sending an email, posting a message, handing out memos or other various ways of communication that do not involve direct confrontation. If you need to hear back from people you can host a meeting to answer questions about the information that has been sent. If you remember to ask yourself "Is a meeting best for this" you will cut down on wasted meeting time and restore your group's belief that meetings are necessary.

Plan Ahead

It is important that before you meet you set specific objectives that must be accomplished during the meeting. It is best to accomplish this by writing your objectives and how you plan on accomplishing them. This should be separate from the agenda so the participants do no get confused with what is planned and what you wish to accomplish. That way you are more in control of how the meeting is operated. The more concrete your objectives are the more focused your agenda will be. Another important part about having objectives is that you will be able to measure how effective your meeting was by observing how many objectives were accomplished.

Have an Agenda

In order to insure better participation from the attendants it is best to send out an agenda before you meet. Your agenda needs to include a brief description of the meeting objectives, a list of the topics to be covered and a list stating who will address each topic and for how long. The closer you stick to the agenda the more effective your meeting will be.

Assign Meeting Preparation

It is always a good idea to delegate some tasks for the participants before the meeting. Having members read background information or come with specific updates is very beneficial for maintaining group participation. You are more likely to have to group discussion if your participants feel they have some obligation to contributing to the process. For less formal meetings and more brainstorming sessions ask trivial questions with direct answers that will instigate discussion.

Assign Tasks

Never finish any discussion in a meeting without deciding how to act on it. Pay attention to key points that are brought up and delegate these activities to people so that the discussion serves a purpose. People will have more respect for the meeting if they see that it is productive and useful towards accomplishing various goals.

Reflection on Meeting Process

In order progress in establishing effective meetings you should assign two minutes for reflection at the end of every meeting. During this time it is good to ask questions such as what went well, what went wrong, and how can we improve our meetings? Be sure to include everyone in on this discuss and acknowledge their critics. You may find at times that no one will have any critics and is a good time to reflect on what was accomplished. There is always room for progress and once your participants realize how effective their input is the more participation you will receive.