Tips for Before, After, and During Meetings

Guillermo SolisThis guest post is by Guillermo Solis.
Although successful meetings are not new, it is worth taking the time to review some of the best practices for managing meetings. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are in charge of a meeting. These suggestions are based on my experience mostly in Mexico and Central America.
1. Before the meeting
Objective. Describe the purpose of the meeting and what you expect as a result. This could be an agreement, approval, work plan, or something else. Begin the meeting with a brief introduction and then move on to the topic. This is a powerful argument to keep the discussion focused!
Participants. Participants. This is enough people. Depending on the issues to be dealt with, we might invite at least one member from each of the departments or areas involved (stakeholders) to attend the meeting. This person will be able to communicate with the others about what was said as well as how it could affect them.
Notice. Please let us know if you can. This will allow us to give participants time to review their agendas. Before you send the invitation, it is worth asking them if they are available. Although it’s not guaranteed, the likelihood of participants attending the meeting will be higher and the chance of rescheduling will be lower.
Agenda. In your notebook, or in the presentation, outline the topics and issues you want to address. Each item should be given a time and a clock in the meeting. You should always consider the time needed for a Q&A session. This slot can be used to handle interruptions more easily.
Plan B. What happens if the projector stops working? The meeting time is reduced by half an hour Or, you have a last-minute guest? It is important to be aware of what could impact your meeting or presentation, and to be open to changing directions if necessary.
Time of the meeting. It is best to meet before lunch. People will lose interest if you schedule it later. They will also be more tired and stressed.
Place. Pick a location or place where everyone can reach you on time and in a comfortable manner. Consider how to get there, lighting, noise levels and availability of a projector or phone.
Material. It is important to have all the material you need. You should review the presentation at least twice. If it is clear and easy to follow, you can share it with another person.
2. During the meeting
Welcome and agenda. Start on time, set the agenda and define the objective. Don’t be late, but wait no more than five minutes for anyone who is late. Respect the time of other attendees.
Questions, comments, and detours are all welcome. While it is always acceptable to answer questions and comment, if the agenda is too restrictive, you can politely mention that the Q&A section at end. Remember that meetings are not monologues. Be flexible. Avoid unnecessary detours and avoid any important detours.
Humor. While being serious is a way of requesting respect, if we don’t break the ice, the meeting can become dark and eerie. Sometimes, a clever joke can make it easier to digest difficult topics, delicate matters, or complex contents of your presentation.
Length. You should limit the length of your meeting to one hour. If it takes more than that, great! But if it takes longer, take 5-10 minute breaks to avoid stress and desperation.
3. After the meeting
Summary/minutes of the meeting. When you send the summary, acknowledge the participation of all attendees. This gives importance to the meeting. It also shows respect for the time of participants. You can either use a pre-defined format or send a summary via email. The format should include any decisions and a list of participants (those who attended and those that sent apologies). It might also suggest a date for next meeting if necessary.

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