By Deanna Tharpe, DSAIA Executive Director
We have all been there. You leave a meeting and wonder why it was even necessary. What was the purpose? Nothing was really accomplished anyway. And actually, it probably was a giant waste of your precious time. But it didn’t have to be. No, not at all.
Meetings are supposed to have purpose…and most do. There is an agenda and lots of discussion. So, why do you leave feeling like nothing was accomplished? Maybe it’s because there were no decisions made, no action items assigned. Sure, some meetings are meant to be a way for staff or committees to keep the rest of the team updated. But if that is all that happens in a meeting, just mail that info in, right?
If you are leading a team, here’s a couple of tips on how meetings can be a useful tool rather than a time-sucker:
Take some time on the agenda.
Rather than just a round-robin of departments, consider adding some bullet points under each category/department with action items from the last meeting as well as future deadlines and/or next steps in order to cover everything and keep everyone future-focused.
Always add a discussion item to the meeting agenda.
It doesn’t matter if it needs a true vote or decision made, but adding an item that needs input of the whole team means engagement! It can be a small detail or a large-scale idea. Whatever it is, the goal is to get the creative juices flowing…or thoughtful ideas shared. But here is the kicker…as the facilitator of the meeting, it’s your job to make sure that everyone participates in this discussion and that it doesn’t go on forever. So, keep a list of your team members and check off who shares. Then encourage others who haven’t by a short prompt: “Sarah, what do you think about John’s idea?” Or keep talkers from monopolizing the conversation: “Jean, I want to hear what you have to add, but we haven’t heard from Sarah yet.” And start your stopwatch on your phone to keep it all in check.
Don’t leave the meeting without Action Items!
I think this is the most important of all. After each discussion, make sure that a decision is made and that it is noted. “So, we agree that we are going to go with the purple shirts this year and Tom is going to check on pricing with vendors and report back to us at the next meeting.” There. Now, write that down and create a deadline for Tom. It’s all about accountability and we are all adults here. You can always set a reminder for yourself to check in with Tom in 2 weeks to check progress, but that action item is already going to be listed on the next meeting’s agenda. And guess what? Two or three action items recalled at the end of the meeting and BAM…it feels like you guys accomplished something!
Good luck at your next meeting! Oops, I have to go! Yep, I’m late for a meeting!