by BCBP Editor

meetingYour department manager breezes through the office briskly announcing an instant change in schedule: “See you in 5 minutes for our weekly staff meeting” and everyone groans as they begin searching frantically for notes of the last meeting. Or, your chapter head sends around a text message or email informing the governance team of a change in meeting schedule, resetting the date and time to this week, instead of the usual time next week? Or, have you ever gone into a meeting that goes on for an hour longer than it should, not knowing why you are there or where the meeting is headed? Or, have you ever led a meeting that did not go the way you imagined it would?

One way or another, we have experienced being in nonproductive, unending meetings. In business. In the BCBP. In a parish or community organization. And it’s just sad if that happens to you on a regular basis. What’s worse is if that happens to a meeting you are supposed to lead.

To help you minimize such unproductive meetings and plan ahead for more productive, effective meetings, we share with you several tips, especially for leaders, that we have condensed from various internet sources.

bong p n snr ldrsBe sure meetings have an agenda and the participants are informed ahead of time.
Letting your meeting participants know the agenda in advance avoids any unwanted surprises. Notice of the meeting can include, if not the detailed agenda, at least a list of the important matters for discussion. This helps participants prepare any documents such as reports that might be needed to make their contribution more substantial. Good meetings will keep their list of discussion areas short to make the most of the time allotted and the participants’ attention.

Why are you holding the meeting? Know what you want to achieve.
What do you want to accomplish at the end of your meeting? What are your objectives? All meetings should be output-oriented. The output may be in the form of an agreement, a plan, a list of things to do, an understanding of what has been presented, etc. If there is no action plan or a change that will come out of that meeting, you might want to think twice if there is a need for you to meet.

Who should attend the meeting?
You may have the right agenda, or the right objectives, but if you are meeting with the wrong people, or if the key members are missing or unavailable, you might as well cancel and reschedule because you will not produce the outcomes you are expecting. Make sure to have the right people present if you want a productive meeting.

Respect other people’s time.
If you scheduled a meeting that will last for an hour, make sure that it only lasts an hour. Start your meeting on time and end the meeting on time. If the discussions are lively and there is a need to extend the meeting, make sure to get the consent of everyone present. If the governance meeting or action group meeting habitually lasts until midnight, then we suggest that you either begin earlier or set time limits to the discussion. And make sure that everyone remembers and follows BCBP time – BCBP Time is On Time. Respect other people’s time.

Prepare.agenda of meeting
Nothing beats preparation. If you want people to see you as someone with leadership that will bring the meeting to the right direction, make sure that you have done your own homework on the matter at hand so that you are ready to address possible questions or concerns that might be raised during the meeting itself. If necessary, informally talk with some or all of the participants ahead of time to sound them out on the matters to be discussed. Do your homework. Be prepared. But also be prepared to allow the Holy Spirit room and time to work during your meeting.

Be the leader, but don’t do all the talking.
Your job as leader is to facilitate the meeting. You pass the ball from one person to another, letting each person contribute towards your defined objectives. A common mistake most leaders make is they try to take charge and be the sole source of contributions. Meetings led by leaders like this end up making participants frustrated and unmotivated. Not only have they not been able to contribute to the meeting, their time has been wasted for something one person could have done alone (i.e. the leader). Yes, the leader leads and makes the final decision, but he encourages participation and sharing of ideas.

Document your meetings.
Assign someone to take notes. Good meetings are well documented. Having minutes sent promptly to participants allows them to review what has been discussed or agreed upon and take action on things that concern them. Having documentation also minimizes finger-pointing in the event that someone has not complied with what has been agreed during the meeting.

How to PITCH a Better Meeting.

PITCH is the acronym for an easy-to-remember process for conducting better meetings: Plan, Inform, Target, Contain, Hasten.

PLAN the meeting by clarifying : mtg objectives
1. The purpose of the meeting.
2. Agenda items.
3. The desired outcome.
4. What arrangements need to be made.
5. How long the meeting will last.

INFORM meeting participants of:
1. The purpose of the meeting.
2. Agenda items.
3. The desired outcome.
4. Date, time and location.
5. Any previous assignments, or reports required.

TARGET productive discussion by:
1. Stating and clarifying the purpose of the meeting.
2. Getting agreement on desired outcomes.
3. Allowing for modification of the agenda (including adding or deleting items, changing the order, or adjusting the times allocated).

CONTAIN the discussion to the agreed-upon agenda by:
1. Having someone in charge and someone to act as recorder.
2. Adhering to the agenda unless the group explicitly agrees to alter it.
3. Confronting behavior that diverts the group from attaining its desired outcomes.
4. Encouraging each member attending to participate fully.
5. Getting agreement on action steps, responsibilities and target dates.

HASTEN the completion of agreed-upon desired outcomes by:
1. Summarizing the meeting.
2. Recording the decisions that were made.
3. Recording the names of persons responsible for implementing action steps and the target dates.
4. Agreeing on a date and time for the next meeting/s.
5. Evaluating every meeting and agreeing on ways to improve, with a few key participants, or with the entire group, with the evaluation results to be included either in that meeting’s minutes or in a separate memo circulated to participants before the next meeting. Such evaluation should be done in the spirit of positive, constructive improvement, NOT in a spirit of negative criticism.
6. Editing and distributing minutes preferably within a few days after the meeting.
7. Putting unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
8. Following up and encouraging task completion.
9. Monitoring and evaluating the results achieved by the group.

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