Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Make Every Meeting Count!

by Shel Horowitz

If 20 people attend a one-hour meeting, and their average salary is $1000 per week, that meeting costs your company $500-plus another $150 or so for benefits. Have one of these a week and you've just spent $33,800.

If these meetings turn out to be useless, you've poured enough down the drain to hire a middle manager or a couple of administrative support people.

So make every meeting count.

Jane Giacobbe-Miller gave the Family Business Center some strategies to achieve just that, in her presentation November 17 at the Yankee Pedlar.

First of all, make sure the meeting is truly necessary. Often, the goal can be accomplished more easily in a two-minute phone call-or, if the goal is to disseminate information, in a short memo or e-mail. Make sure you have clear goals for the meeting, and that a meeting is the most effective way to achieve these goals.

Next, set an agenda in advance, distribute it ahead of time to participants, and allow participants to suggest additions or deletions. Organize the agenda with the most important items first; they will get more thorough discussion-and keep the total number of topics manageable. If one agenda item is contingent on the outcome of another, the one that controls the decision should be dealt with before the other. Specify starting and ending times both for the individual items and for the entire meeting, and appoint a timekeeper to monitor the agreed times.

If participants will be supplying information, make sure they've done their homework ahead and you have everything you need to accomplish the goals-organized and presented in a user-friendly format that makes sense to the audience.

Give some thought to the way the room is set up. Use circular seating arrangements and small groups if you want to encourage participation. If your goal is a short, efficient meeting, don't serve refreshments and have it right before lunch. If you really want to be quick, have a ten-minute power meeting while everyone is standing.

Consider professional facilitation for major meetings, especially if all the participants want to participate actively. It's very difficult to supervise the process and also be active in decision making.

Review the agenda, assign a minute-taker, state the key problem or issue. Then brainstorm, evaluate the proposed solutions (AFTER the brainstorm is completed), test for consensus or vote, establish and delegate action steps to achieve the agreed result. Then summarize the decisions made and the next steps-including who is responsible, what this person is expected to accomplish, and the deadline to meet the goal. All participants should walk away with a clear idea of why the meeting was held, what was agreed on, and who will carry out the decision.

Back to Top