Meeting Management

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Meetings are crucial to the success of your business. As an assistant, you will be in charge of managing meetings. To provide an effective meeting it is a matter of planning, organization, and timing. Fortunately, experience will make meetings easier to manage. Additionally, you can improve meetings by following a few basic tips.

Creating an Agenda

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The key to a successful meeting is an effective agenda. You must be familiar with agendas and how to create them. There are different computer programs available that you can use to create and keep track of meeting agendas. Before you create an agenda, you need to define its purpose. You should ask your manager and the speakers for feedback. Consider the meeting’s objectives, and write them down to guide you in creating the agenda.

Steps to the Agenda:

  • List topics: The topics that will be introduced are based on the objectives you discover.
  • Assign times: Delegate a time for each topic. Without a time limit, the meeting will run long.
  • Determine presenters: Find out who will present each topic, and list speakers on the agenda.
  • Provide the agenda: Send the agenda to everyone who will be involved in the meeting. You should also include additional instructions, such as any materials that the attendees will need to bring with them.

Keeping Minutes

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Keeping minutes provides a legal and historic record of the meeting. Taking minutes is a very important job and should not be taken lightly. Keeping minutes begins before the meeting. If taking minutes is new to you, it is a good idea to check in with the chairperson to determine exactly what is required of you at the meeting. The requirements for the minutes will depend on the type of meeting. Fortunately, there are different programs and templates to help guide you.

Once the meeting is set, make note of who will and will not be attending. Some meetings require a quorum to vote, and no voting may be done if the necessary quorum will not be present. You must take attendance at the meeting. People who give advanced notice that they will not be at a meeting are listed under “Apologies,” and people who do not are listed under “Absent.” What you record will depend on the circumstances, but there are some basic guidelines.

Typically Record:

  • The date and time of the meeting as well as the location
  • Chairperson
  • Purpose of meeting
  • Call to order
  • Amendments or approval of the past minutes
  • Motions, proposals, etc.
  • Minute keeper’s name
  • When people exit early
  • Voting results
  • Adjournment

Keeping the Meeting on Time

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While an agenda is supposed to keep meetings under control, attendees do not always follow them. Rants and off-topic tangents can cause meetings to run long and eat up everyone’s valuable time. You have to balance keeping the meeting on track without alienating the attendees. Fortunately, there are a few ways to keep meetings on time.

  • Assign a parker and timekeeper: Ask someone to volunteer as a timekeeper. The timekeeper points out when the time for each topic is up. The parker keeps a list of topics that should be discussed later. The topics are parked and not discussed during the meeting.
  • Make the agenda visible: Do not assume people will bring their agendas. Post the agenda for all to see, or hand out copies at the beginning.
  • Remind participants about the purpose: You should remind participants of the purpose of the meeting before it starts and during the meeting if necessary. 
  • Signal the chairperson: The chairperson is ultimately responsible for seeing that the meeting runs well. You could work out a signal system ahead of time to point out distractions.

Variations for Large and Small Meetings

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The size of a meeting will greatly affect the proceedings. Smaller meetings may be more informal, while larger meetings require greater organization. You need to be familiar with the differences between the two so you can adequately prepare. Any meeting with more than 50 attendees is considered a large meeting. 

Small Meetings:

  • There is a chance that everyone will participate.
  • Procedures do not have to be explained unless they are formal.
  • Personal opinions are more likely to be expressed.
  • Agenda may be treated as more fluid.
  • Attendees are more likely to be interested in the topic.
  • 100% consensus is typically needed.

Smaller meetings are more intimate. The smaller venue encourages everyone to become involved, but people are more likely to go off topic.

Large Meetings:

  • It is unlikely that everyone will be given an opportunity to speak.
  • 80% to 90% is needed for a consensus.
  • Voting and procedures likely need to be explained.
  • Agenda needs to be strictly followed.
  • Attendees are less likely to be invested in the topic.
  • Personal opinions are less likely to be expressed.

Large meetings require a great deal of space, and they do not encourage teamwork or intimacy. Employees are more likely to lose interest during large, formal meetings. However, large meetings typically have fewer interruptions and stay on schedule.

Case Study

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Harvey sent out the agendas for his first meeting. He was prepared to take the minutes, and felt confident that the meeting would end punctually. The meeting began promptly at 8:00 AM. At first, everyone seemed to follow the agenda. However, Mr. Smith went off topic when he was presenting the ROI for the new training program. He gave personal anecdotes and made a few jokes about how pointless meetings are. As a result, he put the entire meeting 15 minutes behind. He then took up valuable time asking questions that did not related to the subject of the meeting. The meeting ended at 10:00 AM when it should have ended at 9:30 AM.