minutes to a meeting : Clear objectives make powerful meetings
Most people agree that a productive meeting will follow an agenda. That's pretty good advice, however the most productive meetings are the ones where, even before considering agenda items, attendees get clear about the overarching objective of the meeting. A clear objective provides clear direction for the meeting. For even greater clarity, the objective can be stated in terms of desired results or outcomes. An outcome is a clear description of what you will deliver by the end of the meeting. For instance:
Objective: Finalize budget recommendation
Outcome: Final departmental fiscal year budget ready to submit for corporate budget review.
How to Build Shared Clarity
So you understand the power of clarity and wish to take responsibility for it in your meetings. Congratulations! To do that, consider first what you can do if you are in charge of the meeting. The following steps will help.
Consider why you want people to meet. Ask yourself what you will accomplish face-to-face (or via conference call) that you wouldn't accomplish otherwise. This should help you understand the objective of the meeting (but remember that you aren't the only one in need of clarity). Is it for information sharing, relationship building, decision making, creative problem solving or design?
After you know the objective of the meeting, think about your outcomes for the meeting and record at least two: (1) What is your perfect outcome? (2) What is your minimum acceptable outcome?
Validate the objective and outcomes to the best of your ability. Can you reasonably expect this group to produce your outcome in the time allotted? What can be achieved? What preparation is required? Include others in this validation process if it will help you achieve clarity.
Start the meeting by clearly stating the objective and outcomes. Make sure all of the attendees understand the objective and are willing to work toward it.
When it's not "your" meeting, it's a little trickier to be personally responsible that a meeting has a clear objective and outcome, but you can still do it. If you are a subordinate, guest, or other type of participant in a meeting that you did not plan, then consider some of the following approaches:
Ask for the objective and outcomes of the meeting when you're first invited. Let your host know that you take the invitation seriously, view meetings as important work, and wish to be prepared to help produce the desired result.
If you show up for a meeting without knowing the objective and outcomes in advance, then ask what they are as the meeting gets underway. Doing this in a supportive manner early in the meeting shows that you're there to actively contribute. It will also help the meeting leader because clarity of purpose, shared by all the participants, is the most powerful way to ensure the meeting is successful.
Make every meeting "your" meeting by valuing your time and the contribution you can make.