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The Manager's Pocket Guide to Effective Meetings

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A very practical and informative title from the Manager's Pocket Guide series. Learn easy, proven techniques that keep you in control of your meetings. This complete guide to effective meetings will show you how to prepare for success and end with results. It includes structured activities that keep everyone focused on your issues, practical techniques for dealing with unproductive participants, and essential considerations for high tech meetings. If you hold meetings, this book is a must!

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Ch 1: When to Hold a Meeting

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Effective Meetings

2. Select People

Effective meetings include only those people who can make significant contributions to the process, which is usually less than a dozen. Marginal contributors, spectators, curiosity seekers, lost souls, and trouble makers should be left out. If they want to find out what happened, you can send them a copy of the minutes. (You do plan to publish minutes, don’t you?)

There are special situations where a large number of people can effectively work together in a meeting. See Chapter 14 on Computer-Aided

Meetings.

3. Perform Work

Meetings are a business activity where everyone works to earn a profit on the company’s investment in their time. They are conducted with a sense of urgency. They are intense work. They are not an excuse to avoid the work waiting in the inbasket or to socialize in elegant conference rooms.

4. Group Effort

A meeting consists of activities that require a group to be connected together to produce results. Any task that can be performed by individuals should be left out or thrown out of a meeting.

 

Ch 2: How to Prepare an Agenda that Works

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How to Prepare an Agenda That Works

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When planning goals, use the acronym SMART.

S = Specific. The goal states exactly what you want. For example, “Plan a job interview for the new sales position” is more specific than

“Job candidate.”

M = Measurable. The goal contains numbers, parameters, or some measurable item that tells when you have achieved it. For example,

“Develop three strategies to increase sales by

5%” is better than “Boost sales.”

A = Achievable. The goal must be a realistic achievement. For example, “Reduce production waste by 4%” is more realistic than

“Eliminate pollution.”

R = Relevant. The goal must relate to your business, mission, and work at hand. For example, “Plan next year’s inventory” is more relevant than “My golf game.”

T = Time. In general, the time component of a goal is the deadline. In a meeting this becomes the time allotted for working on that activity.

You will specify this in the time line included in the list of activities. Of course, time can also be part of the issue that you are working on.

 

Ch 3 : Process Tools that Keep You In Control

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Right Guard: “Does anyone have an idea makes sense?”

Quarterback: “Then how about . . . .”

Referee: Tweeeeeet!!! “Delay of game! Five yard penalty!”

Quarterback: “Let’s just line up and see what happens.”

Announcer: “Here’s the hike and everyone runs in a different direction. The quarterback is sacked for an

8-yard loss. Wow, what a disaster!”

Of course, no professional team would play this way. The difference is that professional teams use process tools called plays. Each play tells the players what to do and how to do it. These plays are designed to produce the predictable, reproducible result of advancing the ball.

Now wait a minute, you say. Last week my team lost. None of its plays produced anything close to a predictable, reproducible result. That may be true, and the reason your team lost is that there was another team on the field.

In business, you also have competition. And without process tools, your business has as much chance of advancing as the hapless Dingbats.

 

Ch 4 : Action Items that Lead to Results

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Ch 5: Leaders Create a Productive Environment

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Ch 6: How to Deal With Amazing Ideas

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Effective Meetings

It may help to realize that you can accept something and still disagree with it. Acceptance means that we acknowledge without arguing, complaining, or fighting back.

It is important to create a safe environment outside of meetings, too, because your reputation always precedes you. Thus, the way you work with your staff can influence your effectiveness leading meetings with other groups. This is also important in team meetings because the same group of people attend every meeting. They remember what happened in previous meetings.

Here are strategies that turn difficult situations into peaceful victories.

Amazing Ideas That Can Be Ignored

Amazing ideas include anything that seems awful, bad, terrible, unfounded, impossible, stupid, dangerous, destructive, backward, progressive, shallow, thoughtless, insulting, unkind, unworkable, expensive, radical, unconventional, liberal, conservative, illegal, crazy, and original.

Sometimes an idea sounds amazing because the other person thinks differently. Other times the idea truly is amazing.

 

Ch 7 : Tips for Facilitators

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with every sense that you have. Listen with your ears for content, word choice, and voice tone; listen with your eyes for facial expressions, body language, and movement; and listen with your heart for feelings, motives, and warnings. Listen to what is expressed and to what is left out. Listen as completely as you can. Then use this information to guide the meeting process to maximize results, produce genuine agreements, and gather all ideas.

➥ Summarizing

The facilitator should frequently summarize key points made during the meeting. Such summaries provide mental milestones for the participants that show the progress they are making or the direction they are taking. It also helps them stay focused on their work.

You can summarize progress by saying,

“We have just decided to . . . .”

“We just completed . . . .”

Summarize feelings by saying,

“You must feel . . . .”

“That must make you . . . .”

You can summarize complex or controversial ideas by saying,

“Let me say what I think I heard.”

 

Ch 8 : What to Do When Problems Appear

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show the other participants that you can be mean. That instills caution and ultimately reduces everyone’s productivity in your meeting.

In contrast, people find a courteous approach more appealing and convincing. You will also find it easier to apply.

A gentle approach is safer, too, because your initial observations can be misleading. Often additional facts exist that can change our perception of a situation. For example, in one workshop a participant seemed to be sleeping during most of my presentation. I wondered if the person was unmotivated. Later I learned the person was ill and had made a special effort to attend. If I had lashed out with criticism I would have lost the respect of everyone in the room.

When unproductive behavior occurs it is essential that you maintain everyone’s self-esteem while restoring productivity. This keeps the person causing it on your team and avoids a counterattack, which can destroy a meeting. It also wins respect from the other participants in the meeting.

 

Ch 9: How to Stop Unproductive Behavior

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conversations grow like weeds until they take over the meeting. Thus, you want to stop them as soon as they start.

➥ Response: Ask for Cooperation

The easiest approach is to ask the group for cooperation. Look at the middle of the group

(instead of at the talker) and say:

“Excuse me. I’m having difficulty hearing what

[contributing participant] is saying.”

“There seems to be a great deal of interest for this issue. Could we have just one speaker at a time?”

“Excuse me. Could we have just one speaker?”

“Excuse me (pause to gain everyone’s attention).

I know all of your ideas are important. So, please let’s have one speaker at a time.”

“Excuse me (pause to gain everyone’s attention).

Remember: we agreed to have one speaker at a time.”

(Point at the ground rules.)

These statements acknowledge that a side conversation is occurring without naming the participants or putting them on the spot. You want to avoid hostile statements, such as:

“Hey! Do you want to share that with the rest of us?”

 

Ch 10 : How to Save an Unmanageable Meeting

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to adjourn still exists. The work that you started remains unfinished. And the participants will wonder what happens next.

This means that you will most likely have to call another meeting to finish the meeting you adjourned. Use the time between these meetings to improve the situation. Heal your spirit, plan solutions, revise the agenda, and (if appropriate) meet privately with key participants.

Action #2: Call a Break

Some situations can be improved by temporarily detaching from them. That may be the case when you need time to calm down, silence to consider options, or privacy to coach someone.

Call a break by saying:

“We seem to be at an impasse and the best thing we can do now is take a break.”

“We need to rest. Let’s take a break.”

Then use the break to improve the situation. You may want to:

➥ Restore Your Calm

Sometimes the events in a meeting will upset you.

If you feel ready to scream, cry, run, or fight, use the break to regain your composure.

First, leave the meeting physically and mentally.

 

Ch 11 : Audioconference Meetings

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Business Planning

The board of a major corporation voted to expand by introducing a new product line, stressing that the success of this venture depended upon rapid commercialization. The product had to surprise the marketplace to succeed. Otherwise, companies already established in that market would alter their products to undermine the competitive advantage of the new product.

Administrative assistants at the companies participating in this venture met by audioconference to plan a schedule of videoconferences for their bosses. In the course of these meetings, the assistants prepared agendas, planned logistics, and developed strategies for the meetings, recording their ideas on whiteboards. Within a week the plans were set for the first round of videoconferences.

Benefits of Audioconferences

The benefits of audioconferences include:

• Participants can meet without having to travel.

• These meetings are easy to set up.

• The equipment is relatively inexpensive.

• Team members can attend while traveling.

 

Ch 12: Videoconference Meetings

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A small, simple video camera captures the participant’s image and feeds it to the computer, which sends the image to the other participants.

These cameras cost about $200 and mount on the monitor. Images appear on the other participants’ screens in a small (about 1.5 by 2 inches) window.

The participants may speak into a microphone connected to the computer or through the phone system. Depending upon the software, they may also write text messages or draw pictures that appear in a windows on the screen. Video and audio quality are generally poor, with fuzzy images and jerky motion.

Two products are worth mentioning.

CU-SeeMe is a free videoconferencing program

(under copyright of Cornell University and its collaborators) that runs on Macintosh or

Windows computers. A newer version with more features is sold by White Pine Software

(http://www.wpine.com). Transmission occurs through the Internet. With CU-SeeMe, you can connect up to twelve sites (eight sites with the free version). Obtain the free copy of CU-SeeMe from their web site (http://cu-seeme.cornell.edu)

 

Ch 13 : Videoconference Equipment

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Videoconference Equipment

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Type of System

Room-based

Here, a room is set up specifically for videoconferences. The installation may include monitors

(or video projection systems) and speakers. Other equipment includes video cameras, microphones, computers, whiteboards, fax machines, and conference room furniture. Expect to pay $50,000 to over $150,000 for each installation.

➥ Advantages

• The entire system, including line connections, major components, and auxiliary equipment, is in place, ready to use.

• You can install a large screen video projection system that displays life-sized images of participants at other locations.

This makes it easier for you to see members of other groups and it creates the impression of a more natural meeting than would be possible with a television monitor.

Some rooms have been set up with the screen and cameras positioned to display life-sized images of the other participants on the other side of the conference table, thus creating the impression of a regular meeting.

 

Ch 14 : Computer-Aided Meetings

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➥ Collaborative Work Meetings

Participants work jointly on the same computer file (such as a text document, spreadsheet, page layout, illustration, or software code).

Although this type of meeting can be held with any size group, it is generally most effective

(and manageable) with small groups of two to six. Such a meeting can be held with all the participants in one room or with each participant at a different location. Most commonly the participants sit in their offices and use the computers on their desks.

These systems allow people to collaborate with:

• Text interaction. The participants work on the same computer file, which is displayed on each person’s screen. A participant’s initials will appear on the cursor when that person is making changes or each participant will have a separate cursor. Participants communicate by typing messages that appear in a chat window on each computer screen.

• Voice interaction. The software may transmit voice through your intranet or the Internet.

 

Ch 15 : Yes, You Can!

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