I want to talk about holding effective meetings. People have built entire careers on studying this sphere of human activity, and I don’t pretend to be as knowledgeable or scientific as them. But from my personal experience, there are 3 key factors to holding effective meetings: 1) Invite the right people

You want to make sure that the people you invite have some skin in the game. Invite the project sponsors, stakeholders, developers and end users. Anyone else you invite will be bored at best, or will derail the meeting with side issues at worst.

2) Lay the groundwork The majority of meetings fail because the people involved were unprepared. And by fail I mean fail to achieve the desired objective - conveying information, getting consensus, making a sale, whatever. Most meeting attendees are bored and just hoping for it to end quickly. Even those who make an honest effort to understand quickly become glassy-eyed due to information overload. All of this can be avoided by simply doing some pre-meeting preparation. If you’re trying to convey information, send out the slides beforehand, or go have one-on-one conversations with the involved parties. If the idea is to get consensus, make sure most of the agendas are discussed “offline” already, and all stalemates have been removed. If it’s a sales presentation, the key is to already have sold everyone on the product/idea beforehand.

3) Keep the meeting focused

Prepare a roadmap for the meeting, send it out beforehand, and stick to it. Anything not pertaining to the subject and the scope should either be discussed at the end, or taken offline. Any time two or three people start discussing something that doesn’t affect the rest of the group, you’re breaking the meeting’s flow. Participants will lose interest, let their minds wander, and you’ll waste the energy you’d worked so hard to create. The idea is to keep things in flow.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t allow dissent or doubt… just that if something important comes up, make sure it doesn’t derail your meeting. If you’ve followed step 2, you already know most of the questions that will be raised, and will plan for that in your meeting agenda.

Good meetings should be like NBA games - the players need to go through a lot of preparation, bring their A games, and know enough about the arena, the opponents, their teammates and all so that nothing is a surprise. Hence the popular saying in Project Management - “Never ask a question in a meeting that you don’t already know the answer to”.

So that’s my 3-step process. Hope it works as well for you as it does for me.