Meetings 101 part 3

by Stuart on 6 July 2012

In this post we’ll look at who to invite.
The first thing to remember is that everybody sitting around the table is not necessarily doing the job for which they’re being paid. So it’s really important to think carefully who you invite to your meeting. The criteria should be

  • does s/he have a contribution to make to an item?
  • will s/he be materially affected by the item?

If a person does not fulfil one of more of these criteria, then why is s/he invited? If the answer is “because s/he always comes to these meetings” then stop it at once! No-one, no-one, should come unless they have a good reason. Ever.

Assuming a person needs to come to the meeting, does s/he have to attend for the full two hours?

Lets remind ourselves of the agenda.

  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. 16:00 – Close

The fundraiser, for example, is only really needed for the item where we’re discussing the projects that we’ll include in next year’s programme. She doesn’t have to sit through the budget debate, or, unless she’s done something to REALLY upset us, through the HR items.

Because we know roughly when the items will appear, we can invite her along at 14:55 and, once she’s done, she can go back to her work about half an hour later.

We might invite the person who looks after the mobile phones for the policy item, but to be honest, he doesn’t care what the policy is. He just sorts out the hardware and makes the system work. The last thing he wants to do is sit through a policy discussion. So be nice to him and don’t invite him. Tell him the discussion is happening, and tell him what the outcome is. That’ll be fine.

By looking carefully at the timed agenda, we can maximise the effective use of our people. I cannot tell you how many meetings I have sat through waiting to do my bit for item 11.  All I can say is ‘thank goodness for electronic PDAs’.  The number of books I’ve read on these beasties in order to stay awake as someone drones on and on about something that didn’t involve me in any way.  Not an effective use of my time, especially considering that I was being paid to do a job that I was prevented from doing because I was stuck in a dull meeting.

It really is a scandalous waste of resources to have people sit in meetings when they don’t need to be there.  Chairs of meetings that commit these sins should, in my opinion, be taken outside and ceremonially flogged as a lesson to everyone else!  Perhaps that’s a little extreme, but you get the idea.

Working out who is needed when takes no more than a couple of minutes of your time, and has the potential to save hours of everybody else’s.  Please take that extra couple of minutes the next time you schedule a meeting.

In the next episode we’ll look at the physical planning of a meeting.

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