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The Rules of Effective Meetings

Introduction

A meeting is a gathering of two or more people aimed to discuss a topic, often in a formal or business setting. The effectiveness of a meeting is determined by its agenda, the role of the meeting’s leader, and the environment. To organize a successful meeting, the person responsible needs to possess a set of relevant skills and follow certain rules to help the attendees reach an understanding, solve problems, and achieve the desired goal.

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Meeting Overview

The meeting was held within the organization I am employed in on a part-time basis. It was initiated by the project manager and held in Zoom. Its participants were the members of the department involved in the project and part-time employees responsible for its different aspects. It was a scheduled meeting, the purpose of which was to discuss the results of the completed stage of the project, the changes in the work process at the next stage, and the challenges faced by the team.

The meeting was announced via email, with the manager communicating its purpose and asking the participants to prepare a list of issues they have encountered that they would like to make known to other team members. Relevant information was provided on the time and date of the meeting, and the participants who would not be able to attend were asked to notify the manager. Presumably, the most convenient time for the meeting was discussed with the members of the main project team, with part-time employees only being informed about it after it was agreed upon.

The project manager opened the meeting with an announcement of its objectives and explanation of its importance. During the first part of the meeting, she informed the participants on the results of the completed stage of the project and the client’s feedback and announced the objectives for the next stage of the project. Then, she invited team members to discuss the changes in the work process and address the challenges that they encountered at the previous stage. At the end of the meeting, the manager summed up the results, outlining some main points, defining short-term goals, and going over the work process once again for each participant to know its role.

The project manager was the host and leader of the meeting and moderated the discussion. Her role in the team and during the meeting is based on legitimate and expert powers. Legitimate power rests “in the belief among employees that their manager has the right to give orders based on their position” (Victor, n.d.). Expert power is grounded in the employees’ belief that their leader has a particularly high level of knowledge or a specialized skill set (Victor, n.d.). In this project, employees respect and listen to the manager because they know that she has been appointed to be in charge of the project, and she has the most comprehensive knowledge of all its aspects. Being responsible for the communication with the client, she informs the team about their feedback and new requirements and reports to the client about the team’s progress.

The manager’s communicating style was formal during the introductory part but when the discussion started, the participants were able to switch to informal communication. They were invited to share their views on the challenges they encountered, suggest the ways of addressing them, and give their opinion on the ways to improve the work process at the next stage. First, the matters that concerned the members of the main team were discussed, and then, part-time employees responsible for secondary tasks within the project were invited to share their perspective. The discussion was open and everyone was free to share their opinions and suggestions regardless of their position.

There was no visible tension or open conflicts between the participants. However, due to the informal style of the discussion, the members of the main team felt free to make private jokes and make fun of each other, which distracted other participants. It was easy to understand because they have been working together on this project for a long time but slightly uncomfortable for the outside employees who were not familiar with the context. The manager did not interrupt them, although it seemed that this behavior was inconsistent with the nature of the discussion.

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The meeting was held in Zoom with video cameras turned on, and it was possible to observe the participants’ body language. Most of them did not show any disrespect and actively participated in the discussion. Some of the issues raised did not concern all team members, and from the body language of some participants it was evident that they were losing their interest for some time. Their postures became more relaxed, they checked their phones, and did not give their opinion on the subject. No tension was visible and the behavior of participants was consistent with the open and friendly environment fostered in the company. Judging by the participants’ behavior, it was evident that they all were interested in the project and committed to the common goal.

The intended outcome of the meeting was that all team members were informed on the requirements and changes in the project at its next stage, main challenges were identified, and solutions proposed. This outcome was achieved and team members were appointed in charge of addressing some of the identified issues, such as the development of new scripts, simplifying some operations, and database compilation. The success of the meeting was determined by the active involvement of all participants and the well-structured organization of the meeting by the manager. The pivotal moment that contributed to the meeting’s success was the suggestions made by part-time employees, who were able to provide a new perspective on the project. Overall, the meeting was both informative, productive, and motivating; its main objectives were achieved, and it laid the foundation for the project’s improvement at its next stage.

Analysis of the Meeting’s Effectiveness

The meeting’s effectiveness is determined by its contribution to the work process. Effective meeting strategies help a team move forward in a meaningful way by allowing them to come to a shared decision, brainstorm new ideas, or workshop a solution to a problem (Phillips, 2018). Successful meetings increase motivation, boost productivity, improve the work process, inspire greater team collaboration, and increase the overall happiness of employees (Phillips, 2018). The analyzed meeting’s effectiveness was determined by the following characteristics:

  • Clear purpose.
  • Well-defined objectives.
  • Participants’ ability to bring diverse perspectives and knowledge.
  • Project manager’s professionalism in the meeting’s organization and moderation.
  • Openness of the discussion.
  • Shared understanding of the project and its goals.
  • Successful communication between participants.
  • Good plan and structure.
  • Well-formulated results and decisions.
  • Convenient time, agreed with the main team members.
  • Well-selected engaged participants.
  • Comfortable meeting environment.
  • Absence of interruptions and distractions.

The effectiveness of the meeting was negatively affected by the following factors:

  • Unsuccessful time-management (the meeting lasted longer than it was planned).
  • Informal style of the discussion.
  • Lack of visual materials.
  • Lack of engagement of some participants during some parts of the discussion.

The most important factors of the meeting’s effectiveness were its clearly defined purpose and objectives, the participant’s ability to engage in an open discussion, and the project’s manager’s skills in effective meeting organization. According to Matthews (2009), the most important element of any meeting is the objective. Before holding a meeting, one needs to define its purpose and desired outcomes. An effective meeting agenda “clearly states its goals and discussion topics” and provides team member with all the necessary information for participation (Lennon, n.d.). In the analyzed meeting, its purpose and objectives were well-formulated by the manager, the participants were informed about them in advance, and the objectives were adhered throughout the meeting.

The second factor of effectiveness was the participants’ ability to bring their knowledge and expertise into the discussion and share their perspective. It was accomplished by the attendees being asked to prepare an overview of challenges they encountered when working on the project and participate in the brainstorm to address them. With each member of the team being familiar with the project in detail, each was able to contribute to the discussion and help to identify the best possible solutions. As a result, the meeting’s objectives were achieved and improvements proposed.

The third factor was the role of the project manager in the meeting’s organization and moderation. The successful project manager’s skills include meeting planning, scheduling, time management, organization skills, and the ability to motivate team members. According to Means et al. (2007), a successful project manager is a facilitator, who organizes a meeting in a structured way to help its participants to reach common understandings and solve problems. A good manager encourages participation, including raising objectives and openly expressing opinions (“Are you running meetings,” 2007). In the analyzed meeting, the manager has effectively established and communicated the objectives, ensured attendance, created a positive and productive environment, got people engaged, and effectively communicated meeting results (Means et al., 2007). It contributed to the meeting’s success and motivated team members to actively participate in the discussion and develop collaborative solutions.

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The meeting’s effectiveness was negatively affected by unsuccessful time-management, informal style of the discussion, and the lack of visual materials. The meeting lasted longer than it was planned, which made it hard for attendees to concentrate on the discussed subjects. It was the fault of the manager, who did not keep track of time and, probably, wanted the meeting to embrace as many issues as possible. It could have been solved by breaking the meetings into several parts, reducing the time allocated for the discussion of each problem, or focusing the meeting on their identification rather than brainstorming.

The informal style of the discussion was the source of both advantages and disadvantages of the meeting. On the positive side, it created an open and friendly environment, made the meeting more dynamic and entertaining, and allow new participants to feel at ease. On the negative side, it made some members of the team too relaxed and the style of communication too informal, which distracted other participants from the meeting objectives and made them uncomfortable. The manager could have addressed this issue by telling team members to stick to a more formal communicating style.

The third factor affecting the meeting’s effectiveness was the lack of visual materials. Although the manager was well-prepared, she has not presented the information visually, making it harder to comprehend. It could have been solved by sharing the screen with other participants to illustrate the issues she was talking about. However, it has only slightly affected the meeting effectiveness because the most important points and conclusions were shared with team members via email and uploaded into the shared project folder. Overall, the meeting was successful, and its drawbacks only leave room for improvement without significantly affecting its outcomes.

Meeting Organization

A new project was developed and needs to be introduced in a health service organization. The project is complex in size and nature and requires an expanded cross-section of expertise from within and outside of the organization. For the meeting to be effective, a comprehensive agenda needs to be developed, the meeting’s structure determined, relevant attendees invited, and measurable objectives and intended outcomes identified.

The meeting’s agenda is to introduce the new project, inform the attendees of its innovation and possible ways of implementation, and answer their questions. The proposed structure of the meeting includes three parts. The first is the introduction, which is intended to provide the background information about the project and introduce the project team. The second part features a detailed presentation of the project, involving basic information about its technical characteristics, benefits, costs, and ways of implementation. The third part is the discussion, when the participants are invited to ask questions, share their opinion, and give feedback on the project value.

The invited attendees should include the members of the project team, the representatives of relevant departments within the organization, and outside specialists. The project team should be represented by the manager and the team leader. The manager should act as the leader and host of the presentation, and the team leader should be able to answer questions concerning the project’s technical aspects. Ideally, the meeting should be attended by the organization’s top management and the representatives of the departments that would be involved in the project’s implementation. They should have relevant expertise to be able to understand the nature and benefits of the project and sufficient competence to contribute their ideas to the discussion of its benefits and drawbacks. Ideally, the representatives should include senior members of the financial, technical, and research departments. Outside specialists should be invited by the organization to provide independent assessment and critique of the project. Overall, the attendees should be able to both comprehend and develop the ideas expressed during the meeting and get inspired by them.

Conclusion

The effectiveness of a meeting depends on a number of factors. When organizing a meeting, the manager needs to focus on preparation, determining the meeting’s goal and objectives, inviting relevant participants, creating a productive meeting environment, ensuring effective communication, and summarizing the meeting’s results. Most mistakes made during meetings can be prevented and solved by the manager, therefore, their skills and knowledge play the most vital role in ensuring a meeting’s effectiveness.

References

Are you running meetings, or are meetings running you? (2007). Bates. Web.

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Matthews, A. (2009). 6sSecrets of effective meetings [Video]. Web.

Means, J., Adams, T., & Spivey, M. (2007). Facilitating effective project meetings.

Phillips, J. (2018). How to run effective meetings. Slack. Web.

Victor, D. (n.d.). Leadership styles and bases of power. Reference for Business. Web.

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