How to improve the effectiveness of meetings

For in-house counsel, meetings are both crucial and excruciating (See my post of March 27, 2005 on their productivity drag.). In addition to what I have written before (See my posts of April 2, 2007 and 10 references cited; and July 29, 2007 with six suggestions.), from my own experience as a consultant I offer these suggestions.

1. Go over the pre-read material beforehand
2. Each person at the meeting should keep track of the conversation and help keep it on the rails
3. Stick to the topic and help others sort out irrelevant from relevant information
4. Give everyone an equal chance to contribute. Be short-winded.
5. Have blackboards, whiteboards, or easels available, with markers and sticky notes
6. Pick and empower adept facilitators
7. Be fully present (without laptops, Blackberries, side discussions, newspapers and sudoku).
8. Be non-judgmental when someone offers an idea; focus on the idea, not the speaker
9. Try to find some common ground with a comment, and then build on it or diverge from it.
10. Write decisions, next steps, responsibilities, and time frames
11. Be wary of setting meetings at regular intervals, because there may not be much to discuss

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