The meeting that drags on and on and ‘to be continued’ tomorrow; the meeting where everyone sits watching the clock ticks by; the meeting where almost everyone is fiddling with his or her handphone; or the meeting where almost everyone in the room is wondering the same thing: Why am I even here?

Meetings occupy a huge chunk of hours in the workday of most  employees of companies and organizations in Malaysia. Yet almost all staff dread the meetings that continuously drag on and consider them as a waste of time.

During our training sessions most of our participants ranked meetings  as the number one office productivity killer and time waster , ‘stealing’ precious hours from their workday.

Dealing with office politics was a close second, according to most of our training participants.

However there are always ways to run effective, efficient meetings that will leave working staff  feeling in control and on top of things,  energized and even excited about their work. Here are the essential tips and ideas how best to run meetings - before, during and after :

Good meetings do not just happen automatically.
They must be carefully planned……

Clarify the specific purpose of the meeting and be sure it is really necessary.

Discontinue unnecessary meetings. Many meetings involve only one-way communication which does not require a meeting.

Consider the consequences of not having a meeting. Do not call a meeting when: other alternatives will work just as well, there is not enough time to prepare, key people are not available, timing is not right, speed is of primary importance, it will probably not produce desired results, it is more important to respond to individual needs, costs outweigh benefits.

Consider alternatives to meetings, such as memos, con¬ference calls, voice mail, electronic mail or fax machines.

Invite only those people whose attendance is necessary. Tell them what you expect of them at the meeting.

To prepare a good agenda: Consider the logical sequence of items so the agenda moves logically from point to point; be sure to identify what is being discussed, why it is being discussed and what should be achieved by the discussion.

Set time limits for each agenda item. Make sure the more important issues get the most time.

Send the agenda out ahead of time and tell people what you expect from them.

Be prepared for the meeting yourself. Do your homework before arriving.

If the time is not convenient for you, ask that the meeting be rescheduled.
Confirm all meetings before you leave.

Things to take with you to a meeting: pen or pencil, pad, calendar, schedule, business cards.

Be specific about where the meeting will be held and how to get there.

When people want an impromptu meeting, ask why they want to get together with you. Suggest alternatives.

Distribute information before the meeting so people can be prepared to contribute when they get there.

Good meetings do not just happen automatically. They must be carefully planned, skillfully executed....

Use an agenda and stick to it. Resist tangents. You can’t control a meeting without a good agenda, and the agen¬da won’t help if you ignore it.

Set a time limit for your meeting. Start and stop on time.
The best way to get people to a meeting on time is to always start on time.

If minutes are required, have someone there just to take notes. You can’t participate if you’re taking notes.

Summarize the results of the meeting. Clarify or review all assignments.

Minimize small talk and side conversations. Don’t con¬tribute to these conversations yourself.

Conference and meeting rooms shouldn’t be too com¬fortable.
Make sure there is a clock in the meeting room.

Ask: “How will we know when this meeting is over?” This will help focus on closure for the meeting.

Close and lock the door when it’s time to start the meeting.

 Don’t allow interruptions unless they are truly emergen¬cies. Use the 100-mile rule: Would you call this person back to the office if they were 100 miles away? If you wouldn’t, then don’t interrupt them during the meeting.

Structure discussion in stages: (a) State the proposition, (b) produce the evidence, (c) discuss what the evidence means, (d) reach a conclusion, (e) decide on the action.

Stop people from jumping ahead or going back over old ground.
Make action notes as you go along.

To quickly find out what you need to improve about your meetings, ask everyone attending your meetings to anonymously answer a few questions. Was the meeting necessary? Was the purpose clear? Was the purpose achieved? Did the meeting start and stop on time? Was an agenda used? Did discussion stick to the subject? Were interruptions blocked? Were the right people there? Were they prepared? Did they participate effectively? Was the meeting well organized? Were assignments clear? Was the meeting worth what it cost?

Good meetings do not just happen automatically. They must be carefully planned, skillfully executed, and diligently followed up

Prepare a follow-up action plan. Note what must be done, who will do it, when it is due. Give a copy to everyone at the end of the meeting.

Make sure people know what actions they are responsible for after the meeting ends and when the assignments are due.

If minutes are necessary, distribute them within 24 hours.

Be sure to check the progress of action assignments. Don’t risk finding out at the next meeting that nothing has happened.