Let’s face it; the majority of people dread meetings. Meetings tend to be boring, always go on too long, and in the end, not much is accomplished. You can fight meeting malaise by being sure you avoid making the following five mistakes when planning your meeting.
1. Failing to Set a Goal
The first sin of meeting planning is when the planner fails to set a goal for the meeting. Too often, the facilitator of the meeting has an agenda that is mostly about informing the audience about something. This can turn into one long lecture or speech with the ultimate result being the audience is not sure what they were supposed to take from it. Instead, make sure that the goal of the meeting is clear, and that the goal is presented to the audience in such a way that they will not only be encouraged to help achieve it, but that they will be given the opportunity to help achieve it.
2. Mismanaging Time
Time mismanagement is the second sin of meeting planning. Meetings usually either run too long, or veer so far off track that when the speaker finally gets back in gear, there is no time left to finish the meeting constructively. When planning a meeting, it is better to overestimate the time needed than to underestimate it. Keep the goal of the meeting simple, so you can stay on track, and allow plenty of time to achieve it. At the same time, make sure that you are not planning a meeting that will drag into the wee hours of the night. In short, plan enough – but not too much – time for your meeting.
3. Restricting Audience Feedback
Another mistake that facilitators often make when planning a meeting is not allowing enough audience input. A productive meeting is just that; a meeting of the minds. There needs to be room during the meeting for audience input and feedback, or even open brainstorming, depending on the topic. When planning a meeting, it is important to actually plan certain times or activities that allow the audience to participate.
4. Poor Meeting Environment
The meeting environment is another thing that many people miss thinking about when planning a meeting. It is very important to have the optimum environment for productivity. Seats should be comfortable, work space should be plentiful, and the sound and heat levels should be just right. In addition, the planning should include making sure that there is sufficient facility requirements to support the meeting’s equipment, such as projector screens, outlets, and wiring for sound.
5. Unnecessary Meetings
Finally, and this is the most important deadly sin, the meeting facilitator should ask himself if the meeting is really necessary at all. Time is so valuable, and often, what is accomplished at a meeting could have been just as easily and professionally accomplished by one person. Other times, instead of a meeting, a focus group could be organized to solve a problem instead. Still other times a simple memo will suffice. Ask yourself, if the goal of a meeting is to inform, will a memo do the job? If it is to solve a problem, is it everyone’s problem to solve, or is it in a certain person’s job description to do the solving? Make sure the meeting is meaningful by first making sure it is necessary.