Good Meetings Are Everyone’s Responsibility

By Lain Ehmann

Many people attend a meeting the way they prepare to watch a movie. They sit back in their seat, cross their legs and say: Here I am. Entertain me. But to have an effective meeting everyone involved must participate and take responsibility for the outcome. Jo Owen, consultant and author of Hard-Core Management: What You Won’t Learn from the Business Gurus (Kogan Page, 2003), says to get the most out of your meetings participants and planners should focus on the answers to three questions.

1. What can I contribute? “Meetings are meant to be team sports, not spectator sports,” says Owen. “Before you invite anyone you should ask: What contribution can I expect from that person? If he or she has no role or no contribution, then he or she has no part in the meeting,” he says. Owen suggests asking yourself this question before attending meetings as well. If you can’t see what you would add to the gathering, then avoid it if possible.

2. What did I learn or gain? Not every meeting ends in action items for all. Sometimes just receiving valuable information makes the meeting worthwhile. If you’re arranging a meeting to impart information, try to avoid the deathly dull presentation meeting, counsels Owen. It’s easy to perform a huge data dump on attendees, but remember that the amount of information typically recalled by the audience is inversely proportional to the amount of information conveyed. While brevity is much tougher than lengthiness, it’s more effective – and appreciated.

3. What do I do next or differently? Whether you’re attending or convening a meeting, be clear on what the meeting’s purpose. “Each person going to the meeting should have at least one objective for the meeting,” recommends Owen. That objective might be formal, such as get consensus on the new commission plans, or informal, such as corner Bob and find out if the rumors about him leaving are true.

For more information, please email Jo at