We often have great discussions in meetings but then wonder why nothing was actually accomplished. It’s not always an issue with what was discussed in the meeting or a problem with the attendees, but more often it is because there were no clear goals for the meeting established prior to it starting.
So, how do you ensure that people who attend your important meetings don’t walk away feeling that nothing was accomplished? The best way is to ask yourself two simple questions:
- What do I want to have debated, decided, or discovered at the end of the meeting that I and the team haven’t already debated, decided or discovered?
- What do I want attendees to say when others ask, “what happened at the big meeting?”
It doesn’t matter how big the meeting is. It could be a 15 person senior management team development workshop or a 150-person company conference – your first step when planning an important non-routine get together should be to draft an initial set of goals based on the answers to the two questions above.
These goals are not to be confused with the minute detail of the meeting or individual discussions. They are more high level; your desired outcomes for the meeting. You don’t need lots of goals to make a meeting a success. As a starting point, three to five short bullets or sentences that articulate what you want to accomplish is more than enough.
Once you have a draft set of objectives ready you can then test them with other key meeting stakeholders to identify any missing or unnecessary goals. Once everyone is aligned, agree and communicate to all other attendees that these are the objectives.
Not only does this helps keep the agenda focused, it also ensures that everyone in attendance knows the end point and what needs to be achieved. It also gives you cover if someone asks to add an unrelated presentation or discussion at the last minute.
At the end of the meeting, you can review the content of the meeting against the goals that you set, to ensure that you met the objectives.