I hate meetings for the sake of meetings, including "keeping people in the loop" meetings and regularly scheduled meetings of staff. But I also believe that meetings have great purposes for making decisions, hearing out disagreements and setting a course of action. A dear friend of mine recently sent out a list of guidelines for meeting management, which I am passing along here.
One of his key ideas is that meetings should be re-titled, "decision making tables." I like it.
Here are his other key rules for making meetings count.
Avoid pursuing a personal agenda.
You can still represent your interests or subject matter expertise. But if you look like you are focused only on yourself, you will be sniffed out and eliminated from the process quickly. The agenda should be about what is in the best interest of the company and the collected minds–not just your priorities.
Don't lose sight of the meeting's purpose.
People that take meetings off track receive the one visible trademark of a dying personal brand: the eye roll. When people begin to say (or think), "Here we go again, another train of thought that has left the station on the wrong tracks," you are dead. Stay on the agenda, and make sure others stay on topic.
Avoid constantly agreeing or disagreeing.
Nobody likes either a "yes" person or a constant naysayer. Consider your opinion and determine if you have something new or special to add. If so, speak up. If you don't, stay out of the way.
Avoid losing on style points.
If you have been in meetings in which someone is constantly interrupting, or talking over someone, you have seen bad style. Another meeting foul: Don't get so consumed by framing your own response that you never listen to the real point being made.
Don't comment publicly on matters that should be handled in private.
An open forum is not an invitation to commit political suicide–or to make the meeting leader look foolish. Determine the right time to share truly contradictory information or opinions, so that you preserve both your brand and the person you want to correct.
It is the responsibility of the person who is chairing the meeting to keep the meeting on task, on topic and on time. Passing these ideas out in advance is not a bad way to make certain that people have the right mindset for their participation.