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Agree on ground rules for a meeting to ensure that important issues get discussed and the meeting runs without any hitches.
Don't suffer through a meeting
By Lisa Hinz
From eNews, October 28, 2004
When meetings get bogged down in details or go "off track" on unrelated items, everyone suffers. And the tendency is to blame the chairperson or the person who convened the meeting. Don't, because everyone who attends the meeting can play a role in making it more effective. With the following tips, you can breeze through a meeting and leave smiling:
- Have an agenda
It will keep the meeting in focus. If you're not the chairperson, you can offer to help prepare one. Think through what has to be done in the allocated time and consider a logical order for the items that need to be discussed. Once the agenda is ready, send it to the participants; this advanced notice will let them know what's coming and give them "think time." Even an agenda done "on the spot" at the start of a meeting creates focus.
- Have time limits
Put time limits around agenda items and stick to them. Then, if the group isn't reaching a decision, suggest next steps or refer the item for further discussion by a committee or at another meeting.
- Have ground rules
Meetings don't thrive on agendas alone; every group member matters. And having ground rules for how the group will operate will improve a group's effectiveness. Will you begin at a certain time or when everyone is there? Are interruptions okay? Creating and enforcing a short list of rules, and doing so with the group, gives all a chance to agree on them and "buy in" to making the group's work go well.
- Have a pen or pencil handy
If items come up that matter but aren't specific to the current topic, write them down for future conversation and return to the focus of the meeting.
- Have a time-out
If your group struggles continuously at meetings, reconsider why you have the meetings and refocus on that purpose. If the purpose is no longer relevant, perhaps it's time to have a new one or it's time for the group to dissolve.
Lisa Hinz is an educator specializing in leadership and civic engagement with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Regional Center, Farmington.