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How to Make Meetings More Productive

by Pete Harmon

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 2 of 52

Please Read This First

Terms of Use

This Electronic book is Copyright © 2009. All rights are reserved. No part of

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Disclaimer

The advice contained in this material might not be suitable for everyone. The

author obtained the information from sources believed to be reliable and

from his own personal experience, but he neither implies nor intends any

guarantee of accuracy.

The author, publisher and distributors never give legal, accounting, medical

or any other type of professional advice. The reader must always seek those

services from competent professionals that can review their own particular

circumstances.

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Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 3 of 52

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Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 4 of 52

Contents

Please Read This First.............................................................................2

Terms of Use................................................................................................................... 2

Disclaimer ........................................................................................................................ 2

Contents.......................................................................................................4

About the Author ......................................................................................6

Introduction ...............................................................................................7

Preparing for the Meeting .....................................................................9

Support People ............................................................................................................... 9

Prepare Your Agenda..................................................................................................... 9

Chairing the Meeting .............................................................................11

Adding Items to the Agenda...................................................................................... 11

Items which Run over Time....................................................................................... 12

Wrap up Each Item after the Discussion ................................................................ 12

The Time Factor.......................................................................................13

Handling Agenda Items .............................................................................................. 14

Keeping a record - the Minutes .........................................................15

Timekeeping.................................................................................................................. 16

Example of Minutes ...............................................................................17

Encourage Wide Participation ...........................................................20

Brainstorming ............................................................................................................... 20

Mind Mapping................................................................................................................ 21

Concluding the Meeting........................................................................22

Nothing Happens Without ACTION........................................................................... 23

Being a Good Participant .....................................................................25

Improving Your Presentation.................................................................................. 26

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 5 of 52

Record Yourself............................................................................................................. 27

Body Language ........................................................................................29

Problems and Remedies.......................................................................32

Disruptions .................................................................................................................... 32

Responding to Comments .......................................................................................... 33

Asking Questions the Right Way ......................................................35

Open and Closed Questions....................................................................................... 35

Pointed Questions ........................................................................................................ 36

Follow-up questions..................................................................................................... 36

Best and Worst Questions.......................................................................................... 36

Better Listening.......................................................................................38

Meetings Out Of Your Office...............................................................40

After the Meeting....................................................................................42

Perform your own Post Mortem ................................................................................ 42

Resources ..................................................................................................43

Training ............................................................................................................................ 43

Procedural Guides for Meetings ............................................................................. 43

Video and Teleconferencing ...............................................................45

Running Your Video Conference or Teleconference....................................... 47

A Word from Pete Harmon ..................................................................51

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 6 of 52

About the Author

Pete Harmon has been involved with meetings in sporting, social and

business areas for most of his adult life.

Pete has always been focused on making a positive contribution to the

organizations of which he was a member.

Like many other members, he found this very difficult at first. But, he worked very hard to be a more effective member.

He also slowly improved his presentation and other personal skills which

helped with his club activities. He also believes that his career has been

helped by this effort as well.

In the depressed economy and tight job situation, it can be a real plus when

someone shows they can present their self and their point of view effectively

in all kinds of social and business situations.

Pete said that he is not a professional meeting organizer or a lawyer, and he

has no special talent or secret.

He learned by watching and doing.

“That’s the best way, but it takes a fairly long time. And, some mistakes that I’ve seen people make have been costly to their reputations and their

ambitions, both personal and professional.”

“So, I wrote my book to help others learn from their armchair in a couple of

evenings what took me years.”

Pete’s book will give you the basic knowledge to get better outcomes for

yourself and the organizations you support as well as give you more self-

confidence in all kinds of public situations.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 7 of 52

Introduction

A lot of meetings are mostly a waste of time.

They take busy people away from their main tasks, often at the most

inconvenient times.

They are seen as interruptions to the work in progress rather than a valuable

tool.

Researchers have demonstrated that interruptions to a person’s workflow

mean that he or she will lose more time by having to prepare for the

meeting.

There is also a serious cost to the organization’s bottom line from what it

costs your business to have the staff in the meeting instead of performing

their regular duties!

Everyone involved also loses some productive time because they have to

prepare for the meeting and travel to and from it.

They also need some time to adjust back to their normal working pattern

after the meeting is over.

It's our duty to do everything we can to ensure that every meeting we take

part in produces useful results.

My book will help you to get maximum value from the meetings you attend

and suggest ways to prevent you wasting time and money when you have to

organize, attend and participate in meetings.

This book is not a manual on procedures.

I give you some general information on procedures and other matters related

to formal meetings but the rules vary widely according to the country and

type of organization. It’s an area which is often subject to laws and

regulation which are specific to the area where you are located.

I have included links and suggestions for resources on procedures and other

related subjects in the reference section at the end of the book.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

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This book is focused on information which will help you produce better results from the time and effort you invest in whatever kind of meetings you take

part in.

I’ve included some information about how to put forward your views and the

ways which I’ve found best to interact with people, including those whose

views are widely different to mine, wherever possible.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 9 of 52

Preparing for the Meeting

If you are given the responsibility to organize and perhaps chair a meeting,

don’t worry too much. My experience is that most people at most meeting

will respect the Chair, even an inexperienced one provided they show they

have done some preparation and do their task without bias or pressure.

When you decide to hold a meeting or are co-opted to organize one, make a

list of the people who you believe may need to be at the meeting.

Then, contact them about their availability and interest in the meeting.

Keep the number of people that your meeting takes away from their regular

work to a minimum. Avoid the temptation to invite everyone who might have

even just a peripheral interest in the main topics to be discussed.

Support People

If you are chairing the meeting, you will need to find someone willing to

record what happens at the meeting and confirm that the agenda items are

attended to.

You will also need someone to look after any equipment or supplies which are

required for the meeting.

Prepare Your Agenda

Give the people you contact a list of topics which you expect to discuss at the meeting and ask them for suggestions of topics which they would like to add.

Sometimes, you may get suggestions for changes to the items which you

have on your initial list. Someone may have reasons for wanting more time

for a particular topic.

You may even discover that some items have been dealt with.

Check with them if they can suggest other people who might benefit from

being at the meeting or who could be a source of relevant information which

could be helpful to the group at the meeting. This information might be

supplied in written form or verbally by you if there is no other reason for the provider to actually be at the meeting.

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

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Provide the agenda to all the relevant people in a timely manner before the

meeting so that they can prepare themselves, gather relevant material and

fit the meeting time into their personal schedule.

Write the agenda items in a way that makes it clear to the group how each

item will be treated:

A decision about action

Information about current status, outstanding problems or future

possibilities

Suggestions for improvement

Providing a clear agenda in advance will help everyone concerned to decide

whether or not they need to be at a particular meeting.

This can also help anyone that is unable to attend the meeting. They can

contact the organizer or another attendee and provide them with relevant

material.

Sometimes, you can't arrange a time which is convenient for all stakeholders

but you should do your best to ensure that as many as possible are present

and all are consulted.

Check that they will either attend the meeting or contact someone else who

will be able and willing to offer their information and suggestions to the

group.

Check records (minutes) of previous meetings for items which were to be

acted on between meetings and confirm that responsible people will attend

to, report and answer questions, if any.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 11 of 52

Chairing the Meeting

Someone has to control the meeting and that role usually falls to the person

that organized it.

Check that morning with the person who agreed to help you by recording the

minutes. Don’t leave that to the very last minute.

Instead of just waiting “a few extra minutes” for any latecomers while the

people who have arrived chat among themselves, always start the meeting

on time.

You can introduce yourself and then ask each person to introduce themselves

with their name and what they do which is relevant to the purpose of the

meeting. Pay particular attention to people that have only recently joined the organization.

That courteous formality gives you a chance to gain a quick impression about

each of the people. There are likely to be people who try to dominate,

become aggressive or are so shy that they need help to deliver their

contribution to the group.

Ask if there are any apologies for absence from the meeting.

Give a brief outline of the purpose of the meeting and read out the agenda.

Ask if there are any comments about any of the items (some may have been

settled since the agenda was prepared and circulated).

You should also ask for any other important items which anyone present

believes should be added to the agenda.

Adding Items to the Agenda

The Agenda is important, but not cast in stone but flexibility may be required at times.

The chairperson will give priority to the items which were properly submitted

in advance for inclusion in the meeting’s Agenda.

But, they have to be ready to accept new items of business which arise

between the preparation of the Agenda and the actual meeting.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

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The secretary or minute-taker should write them in a separate list. They can

sort them according to urgency and importance so that as many as time

allows can be dealt with after the main items have been discussed and

actions decided.

Items which Run over Time

If any agenda item starts to take more time than you think should be allowed

for it, suggest that the group agree to defer further discussion so that the

more important items can be given sufficient time.

Then, give it some time, if available, near the end of the meeting or defer it to the next meeting.

If it needs to be finalized before the next meeting, suggest that a sub-

committee be formed, including those with a particular interest in the matter, to deal with it.

If that is accepted by the meeting, ask the sub-committee to call on you or

other members of the group for any help which they feel they might need to

do so.

Wrap up Each Item after the Discussion

When discussion is over about an item, either the Chair or the secretary

should give a quick summary of the main points made, decisions and the

person responsible for any agreed action.

This may add maybe a minute or so to each item but it can reduce the length

of discussion when people start to repeat points which have already been

made.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

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“How to Make Meetings More Productive” by Pete Harmon

Page 13 of 52

The Time Factor

Set the time of the meeting and

start on time. This is one of the

most important recommendations

and one that is most often

ignored.

Many organizers accept that

people will arrive late, sometimes

for very good reason and

sometimes just because “they always do”.

But, the organizer may believe that it is both polite and practical to delay the actual starting time by a few minutes.

That will not help to encourage prompt attendance at future meetings by the

latecomers. The problem with this approach is that everyone will assume that

future meetings will also start a little late.

Even some of those who made the effort to be on time for this meeting will

give themselves a few extra minutes to do their own work bef