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September 4, 2012 / mike54martin

Meetings Smeetings

John Kenneth Galbraith, a very intelligent man once said that “meetings are indispensible when you don’t want to do anything.” We must have been to some of the same meetings. The fact is that meetings are the scourge of the modern manager or employee. They can be our worst nightmare, especially if they are disorganized, poorly planned or ineffectively chaired. Many meetings never accomplish anything other than to set the date for the next meeting. So how do you know if a meeting is really necessary?

Here’s a few questions that might help reduce the number of meetings you currently attend.

  • Can you get input on a document or policy by e-mail rather than having a meeting?
  • If you are part of a committee that has been meeting for a year and has still not prepared a report or recommendations then why are you still meeting?
  • If you can’t make any suggestions or give input then why are there again? Can’t they just send you the minutes later?
  • Why are there two or three representatives from your section at the same meeting?
  • If you know in advance that a meeting is planned but no decision can be taken then can you postpone the meeting until a decision can be taken?

Some basic rules of meetings are that they should only be held when they are absolutely necessary, when the purpose of the meeting is known in advance, and should only have the people in attendance who have to be there by virtue of their knowledge or their position in the organization. All other meetings are a waste of your valuable time. And whenever there is a meeting it should be well planned and well chaired or facilitated.

Planning for any meeting should include defining the purpose and objectives of the meeting and what you want to accomplish. This means having an agenda for the meeting that helps provide a focus and allows the chair to provide direction to participants. The agenda items will also help determine who needs to attend the meeting and if it is distributed in advance it will allow people to come prepared for the discussions.

Good chairing can also make or break a meeting and the number rule for the chair is to start (and finish) the meeting on time. The chairperson is also responsible for ensuring that everyone understands the ground rules or guidelines and any decision making process that has been agreed to. In addition to keeping time the chair or facilitator must make sure the agenda flows and all essential items are dealt with. They should also ensure that key points or decisions are recorded and reflected in minutes or notes from the meeting.

The last thing a good chair should do is…… to set an agreeable date for the next meeting. Now when’s my next meeting?

This post first appeared on my blog at

Mike Martin is a writer and the author of The Walker on the Cape, a mystery novel set in Grand Bnak, NL. For more information please visit


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