Starting a meeting without a pre-defined plan results in confusion, frustration and is a waste of time. The agenda for a meeting has to be used as a guide to steer the conversation towards achieving the outlined goals. It is not good enough to have the agenda in your head and to go with the flow during the meeting. You need to have a clearly written agenda which should be communicated to all participants before the meeting. This allows everyone to do some preliminary research on the topics which are to be discussed to make it more productive. When setting up a meeting follow 4 basic steps to produce the agenda:
Have a clear goal for the meeting: Every meeting should have a clear focus. Writing down this goal in a clear precise manner helps to visualize the outcome which is required. Some meetings may not appear to have a clear focus, especially in the early phases at a startup company. However you need to pinpoint quantifiable areas. When you are discussing the viability of your service goals for the meeting “Reach a consensus on which functionalities are viable and necessary in the alpha version of the service.” Writing down and communicating the focus of the meeting will create boundaries to work within and will result in more productive meetings.
Determine the intermediate steps required: When you set an agenda for the meeting do your best to avoid generalization of intermediary steps. For example if you are in a meeting where the goal is “Select a vendor for a CRM solution” discussing “Advantages of CRM solutions” or “How CRM will impact the company” are not relevant to reaching the goal and if you want to assess advantages, disadvantages and impact of the solutions they should be categorized in specific manageable discussion points. You have to ensure that each of your intermediary steps helps you reach your goal. Keep goals as specific as possible to avoid irrelevant or vague discussion points.
Select the right people to attend: Decision makers or those with a direct connection with the goal should be invited to the meeting. Inviting individuals who have no direct impact on what is being discussed, results primarily in wasting resource time, and may slow down the meeting causing digression into unrelated topics. If you are selecting a psychometric vendor; the IT manager, finance manager, head of HR should be invited. These will be key decision makers who will be able to arrive at a conclusion quickly and effectively. Calling someone from the quality control department may not be a wise choice. Simple as this may seem we still seem to be dragged into meetings where we add no value. Make sure each resource at your next meeting is adding value otherwise you are wasting company resources.
Identify potential barriers before hand: Barriers and roadblocks are common in most meetings. Being an effective meeting leader will require you to forecast these barriers before the actual presentation. This will allow you to manage conflict between opinions more effectively. To handle this situation you will need to know the individuals who will be taking part in the meeting, their personalities, their respective departments and their temperaments based on prior meetings to keep the meeting running on time and moving towards reaching your goals. If you are pitching to a customer you can use past experiences with other customers to predict areas where resistance is expected.
Agendas are essential blueprints to having successful meetings. Make sure that you communicate a clear and specific agenda before the meeting and do your best to keep the discussion in line with the points. Following this will impact greatly on the productivity of your next meeting .