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Meetings 101 part 2

Meetings 101 part 2

by Stuart on 29 June 2012

In the last post we looked at writing a little more detail on the agenda so that participants have at least a clue about what they’ll be talking about.

In this post we’ll look at timing.

Firstly, look at the items on your agenda. Which are the ones you really have to cover at all costs, and which you could defer, even if you don’t really want to?

Now put the items in the first list at the top of the agenda, and the others at the bottom. By doing this you at least ensure that the most important items will get covered, and if they’re near the beginning of the meeting there’s a reasonable chance that most of the participants will still be awake.

If you run over time, then you can reasonably defer the lower items to a later meeting, knowing that you’ve covered the high priority items.

The next bit is good. In the margin make a note of the time you think should be alloated to each item, and translate this into the time at which this item will start.

So looking at the example we used last time, let’s look at the order of the items. Actually, it’s pretty good. The minutes have to come first, and then the budget is the most important item and it’s next, so there’s no need to muck around with the order of the items in this case.
Next we have to figure out how long we should allow for each item.

  1. 10 mins: Minutes from last meeting
  2. 15 mins: Matters arising
  3. Budget for next year
    • 30 mins: Consider figures for next year’s budget – see attached draft
    • 30 mins: Selection of projects for next year – see attached summaries
  4. HR issues
    • 10 mins: Review of mobile telephone policy (attached)
    • 10 mins: Progress on consultation on new restaurant facilities
  5. 10 mins: AOB

We have a total time of just under two hours, which is fine because there are two hours allowed for the whole meeting. It’s no big deal if we don’t talk about the restaurant. That item is mainly imparting information, so a memo could do most of the job.

Turn the times into clock times. The meeting starts at 14:00 so the agenda now looks like …

  1. 14:00 – Minutes from last meeting
  2. 14:10 – Matters arising
  3. Budget for next year
    • 14:25 – Consider figures for next year’s budget – see attached draft
    • 14:55 – Selection of projects for next year – see attached summaries
  4. HR issues
    • 15:25 – Review of mobile telephone policy (attached)
    • 15:35 – Progress on consultation on new restaurant facilities
  5. 15:45 – AOB
  6. Close – 16:00

This is good. Not only do we have a decent idea of what we’re talking about, we also know the ‘weight’ of each topic, which is illustrated by the length of time alloted to each item.

The tricky bit is keeping to the time slots. It’s a balancing act for the chair, who has to balance allowing discussion with the need to keep on time. If it all goes horribly wrong, s/he can bring the discussions to a close and allow some more time at the next meeting. Hopefully by then there will have been more work done on the topic and it will be easier to complete the discussions.

We’re making progress, and in the next post I’ll show you another use for timed agenda items.


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