EEEK! It’s once again time to plan your weekly sales meeting – but how long
should the meeting last? How can you get through all the necessary points without
monopolizing your co-workers’ time? A good leader knows that his team members
don’t appreciate having their time taken up needlessly. To waste their time
repeatedly is to lose their respect!
When thinking about calling a meeting, you must first (a) determine what needs
to be covered and (b) figure out how best to cover those items. Too often these
decisions are ignored or mishandled, but if you take them to heart and abide
by the following tips, your meeting can be a success.
Get the Word Out
Invite participants to the meeting and ask for feedback on what they want
covered. Follow the "Rule of Halves." Ask for all agenda items no
later than half the time between the last meeting and the upcoming meeting.
For example, if meetings are held weekly on Fridays, agenda items should be
gathered by Wednesday. Then you can start to put together an agenda that will
fulfill the objectives of all attendees.
Look to the Past for the Future
Allot time limits for discussion on agenda topics. Think back to previous
meetings and recall how long it took to go through similar agenda items. Create
a more realistic time budget by following the "Rule of Sixths." For
approximately two-thirds of the meeting, you should focus on current agenda
items. Subdivide the remaining third in half. One of these chunks of meeting
time can be spent on past agenda items and follow-up. The remaining sixth of
the meeting can be spent on future agenda items (i.e. planning or preparation).
Schedule agenda items in order of ascending controversiality. Warm up with easy
issues that will take little time to resolve before you move on to the tougher
Everything Has Its Time
At the beginning of the meeting, review the agenda and the tasks to be accomplished.
This helps meeting participants know precisely what is expected and encourages
them to focus on the task at hand. It also makes controlling time in the meeting
much easier. During a meeting, consider using a clock to time each discussion
topic. Try setting the alarm to warn meeters when the time allotted for the
topic has expired.
Click for a larger image
Down with Information Overload
Keep it to the point! Schedule only as many presentations, documents or
new business items that you think can be covered. Be realistic. Don’t think
that you can create a new budget and a set of company bylaws in a one-hour session.
For any new business you’ll be discussing, attach an executive summary clarifying
key points, conclusions, and alternatives to be discussed and decided upon.
You won’t have time within the meeting to shuffle through many pages to find
You, You and You...but Not You
Invite only those directly involved in the issues being discussed. Meetings
can fail because too many or too few participants attend. If a meeting is too
large, for example, discussion may be superficial and it may take twice as long
to make a decision than you originally thought. If all attendees will be affected
by decisions, they’ll be more task-oriented and less distracted by trivial issues.
Schedule Like a Pro
Specialized meeting information management software helps you manage time
and information at your meetings. With SMART Meeting Pro, your meeting agenda
becomes a powerful tool to keep meetings on track and on time. The application
helps you collect, organize and archive critical meeting information. Agenda
items appear at the top of each page on your computer, and the time elapsed
for each topic discussion is automatically tracked by a timer.
Your bottom line is to get done what you need to get done. You can do this
within a budgeted amount of time. Once you’re in the meeting, watch the time
and the conversation. Discuss only what needs to be discussed, and you’ll be
saving you and your co-workers valuable time. If you can successfully do all
of this, you’re well on your way to being a meeting scheduling guru!
1. Meeting in America: A study of trends,
costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact
on productivity. A network MCI Conferencing White Paper, 1998.