February 19, 2013

Increasing Focus in Meetings

RARA A Meeting Wizard's Approach
RARA A Meeing
Wizard's Approach
So many people hate to go to meetings because they seem to be a waste of time that could be spent on more valuable work.  There are even lots of statistics on how much time people spend in meetings and how little they feel they achieve. 


It is not that meetings are not good communication tools; it is more that many people do not know how to properly run a meeting or participate in making it worthwhile.  Meetings where everyone is focused on the task at hand can accomplish a lot in very little time.


How do you increase focus in meetings so they can be very effective and still run efficiently?  Follow this simple outline
I. Start with proper planning using the first RA (Roles, Agenda) in RA!RA!

  1. Create an agenda using the 3 T’s and stick to the time constraints as much as possible in the meeting.  Don’t deviate from the agenda unless you pool all participants to make sure changes are ok. (FYI - the RARA book has a reproducible meeting agenda form inside as well as a checklist and presentation planning form.)
  2. Assign roles like facilitator, minute-taker, gatekeeper, etc.in advance rather than wasting valuable meeting time getting volunteers.  Consider rotating the roles on a regular basis so everyone gets to do each role and knows when it is their turn.
II. Keep the meeting focused on the topic at hand by:

  1. Starting on-time will get people used to the ideas of arriving early rather than late.  If you start on-time, you should be able to stop on time; you may even be able to get out a little early sometimes once your meetings become more effective. 
  2. Turning off phones and other electronic devices that are not relevant to moving the meeting along the desired path.  This keeps interruptions and distractions to a minimum, as well as making it easier for all to participate in the meeting discussions. 
  3. Having a written record of what the group is working on visible throughout discussion and decision making processes.  This can be accomplished with PowerPoint slides, flip chart, or marker boards in the room.
  4. Stopping rabbit trails right away and bringing the group back on track by pointing to the agenda that you are following.
  5. Recording all decisions and actions as you go along to reduce repetition during the meeting and questions later.
III. Follow-up with documentation using the last RA (Records, Actions) in RA!RA!

  1. Send out the minutes of the meeting within 2 days of the meeting date.  Minutes should be an exact duplicate of the written record taken during the meeting.  Sending the minutes out quickly gives people the opportunity to ask questions for clarification before doing outside tasks. (FYI - the RARA book has a reproducible meeting minutes format inside as well as an actions form and meeting evaluation.)
  2. Insure all action items are assigned using the 3 W’s with due dates.  Send an action reminder out a few days before the next meeting so people have time to complete actions or prepare a progress status.
If the meeting is to be virtual rather than face-to-face, check out post with links to virtual meeting tips.

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