“Who needs to be here?” It’s not the usual way to start a meeting but maybe it should be. We have meetings for specific reasons. The people in the meeting should be there for specific reasons, too. When creating your attendee list, be judicious. In considering each potential invitee, ask yourself: what will this person add to the meeting, and what will the meeting add for him or her? In our work looking at meetings, time management and productivity for more than 15 years, we’ve consistently seen that meetings are most effective and productive – for everyone – when attendees match one (or more!) of five criteria.
- People who have the power to DECIDE: In order to move an idea from concept to action, you need to have people with decision-making authority on the topic involved in the meeting. Do you have a great idea for the new e-marketing campaign? Then it makes sense to schedule a meeting with the director of marketing. But also consider including the IT department, or whoever needs to manage the technical components of executing the campaign. To take your plan from idea to reality, you’ll need help from multiple sources, and it will be most efficient to include everyone from the beginning so that the group can make the decisions necessary to take it from your initial idea to an infographic in your clients’ inboxes.
- People who have something at STAKE: You have two projects but only enough room in the budget to pursue one. Even if the choice seems obvious, it’s good to have both project leads in the decision meeting. Give them a chance to explain their case. One may not agree with your decision, but she’ll appreciate being a part of the process. And it may be when she hears the other side explain their position, she agrees and has the expertise on her team needed to make the chosen project shine.
- People who are CREATIVE or have UNIQUE VIEWS: Fresh ideas can come from anywhere. Have a new marketing campaign aimed at Millennials? Along with the director of marketing and the director of business development, consider inviting James, the administrative assistant who just started a few weeks ago. Who better to share the views of Millennials than a Millennial?
- People in CONFLICT or with CONCERNS: When change is happening, people’s concerns can range from strict business (are we sure this product is ready for market?) to more personal (if I move to a new floor am I going to be out of the loop?). But if it’s happening at work, it’s a work-related concern. If someone is affected by a decision, consider including them in the decision-making process. Feeling heard can be an amazing antidote to creeping fears that come with change.
- People who need to KNOW, LISTEN, or LEARN: There’s a myth that everyone in a meeting should be there to “contribute” and to “contribute” you need to have something to say. In truth, a well-run meeting is a tremendous learning experience. Will Sarah, the newest, and most junior member of the team have much to say in the client presentation? Likely not. But in a year, when the client comes back, and she has to design the presentation, she’ll have the confidence that comes with having seen it before.
In traditional work environments, our meetings tend to be functionally-oriented – a work team, a department, a project team. But sometimes for a meeting to be as productive as possible we need to think outside that traditional functional orientation. Just because a meeting is about accounts, doesn’t mean the entire Accounts Team needs to attend, or that only members of the Accounts Team should attend. In organizing a meeting, be thoughtful, be judicious, but also be transparent. When you're sending out the meeting invite, explain why you think the group you're convening is exactly right to tackle the issue you want addressed. And encourage feedback from your invite list. Do they think they should be in the meeting? Is there someone else whom they believe could add value or benefit from being there? If you get investment from the other attendees beforehand, you're on the track for a productive meeting, and, believe it or not, one you enjoy.
This is part of Edgework Consulting’s Time Management Workshop series. Each Time Management Workshop post is bite-sized and designed to help you get more out of the hours you have. For more entries in the Time Management Workshop series click here.