“Well,” said Mike, the regional sales director, “I’d like to start the meeting since we’re already running 15 minutes late. But I think we’ll wait another 10 minutes or so to see if anyone else makes it.”
The chatter of conversation around the room almost drowned out what Mike said.
“Mike,” asked Bill, sitting in the back, “what was that you said? I missed it.” Before Mike could respond, Bill looked to his right and nodded at Sarah. “Hey, I have to thank you for that suggestion yesterday. It worked out.”
“Bill,” yelled Mike across the din, “we’ll start the meeting in about 10
“Sure. OK. Say Sarah, I had this idea . . .”
Mike walked out to where his secretary, Janet, was sitting and asked, “Everyone knew what time this started, right?”
“Sure thing, Mike. Sent the notices and left messages for everyone a week ago, and yesterday I called and left another message for everyone.”
“OK. Just checking.”
As he walked back into the room, Janet remembered that five salespeople had asked what the meeting was about, and she couldn’t tell them.
“Oh,” said one, “another Mike no-meeting meeting. Don’t tell him, but I’ll just skip it. I only need to speak to Wild Man Bill about something. I’ll call him and ask what I missed besides coffee and donuts.”
As Mike resumed his position at the front of the room, he decided that the next meeting would start on time no matter what. Might as well start this one.
After about four minutes getting everyone’s attention, Mike was about to start when Janet walked in.
Her eyes met Mike’s, and he just threw up his hands. “Bill,” she said, “That prospect you talked to yesterday is on the phone. Do you want to take it?”
“Sure,” said Bill, getting up, “someone take notes for me while I’m closing this guy.” And out the door went Bill.
Based on how the meeting was starting, there probably was no purpose to the meeting. Meetings that are called for no purpose turn into social gatherings. While nice, most social gatherings don’t get any business accomplished. People who hold meetings without agendas should expect nothing more.
Unless you are a rare individual working in a rare company, no one likes to attend meetings. Most meetings begin as a social get-together, then proceed to the speaking of “meeting words,” ending with another social get-together. Everyone leaves having only accomplished the wasting of time and social stroking.
If the agenda of the meeting was social stroking, then the meeting was a success. However, that usually is not the purpose of the meeting.
Having a meeting that accomplishes something is as simple as having an agenda. The agenda does not have to be the document to end all documents. Indeed, it may not even be written. It should, however, have at least the following components:
- A simple declarative sentence as to why the meeting is being held. For example, “This meeting is being held to discuss how this TACTICS card can be used.”
- The second part of the agenda is crucial to the success of the meeting. Conversation is directed toward a purpose. In this example, the directed conversation, the purpose, could be the reading aloud of the card. Thus everyone present has his attention focused on the same idea for the balance of the meeting.
- The third part of the agenda is to get the reactions of those participating in the directed conversation. These reactions must be written down. Ideally on a board so that all can see them.
- The fourth part is taking the written reactions and ordering them from most important to least important. This should also be done on a board.
- The fifth part is determining what needs to be done by whom to make the three most important items happen. Selecting more than the top three for action invariably leads to nothing happening with any.
- The sixth and final part is setting actual dates by which the top three items will occur. Don’t say “within two weeks.” Everyone will then leave wondering when the two weeks start, no one will start and nothing will get done.
Meetings that are held with no written agenda start late, last forever, and accomplish only the wasting of everyone’s time.
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