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CONDUCTING EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

1.1 Introduction

Meetings are convened to address issues concerning an organization. These are held at all
levels in the organization. Generally, meetings are an effective tool to not only deal with
routine and strategic matters but, if managed well, could contribute significantly in
developing a culture of participative decision making.

1.2 Tips on Conducting Meetings

The first section provides a checklist for conducting meetings efficiently and effectively. This
is followed by examples of writing minutes of meetings.

1. Call meetings only when necessary; check if the issue(s) can be better addressed through
other modes of interaction among people --- internal memo, email, telephone call, or a
routine, informal tea meeting.
2. Typically, meetings are held to discuss and take decisions on strategic and tactical matters.
3. An agenda for the meeting is circulated beforehand, together with information regarding
persons who will attend the meeting and the time and place of meeting.
4. Decide about the most convenient time for the meeting --- a time at which most of the
persons invited are likely to attend.
5. Choose an appropriate venue for the meeting.
6. Consider seating, lighting, sound system and other audio visual requirements.
7. Ensure availability of other materials, such as pencils, pen and paper.
8. Make arrangements for refreshments.
9. Strictly follow the agenda and also make sure that adequate time is spent on different
agenda points.
10. Encourage discussion and wholesome participation from everyone present.
11. On several occasions the information regarding the meeting also includes whether the
attendance of listed members is mandatory.
12. Usually, the first agenda item is the ‘approval of minutes of the previous meeting.’
13. Typically, the agenda items fall under three categories --- a briefing on tasks in progress,
issues requiring decisions and other issues.
14. Note that ‘other issues’ (invariably the last agenda item) can generate a lot of discussion
and controversy. The chair should ensure that discussion remains focused and, preferably,
relevant to the overall theme and agenda of the meeting.
15. The person conducting the meeting is referred to as ‘the chair’ and sits at the head of the
table.
16. The ‘chair’ not sitting at the head of the table is often a reflection of weak leadership
17. Before the start of proceedings, the chair nominates one of the participants to be the
‘scribe’ for preparing minutes of the meeting. Usually, the scribe is nominated on a rotation
basis to ensure that no one is overly burdened with the task of writing minutes.
18. The chair ensures that agenda items are thoroughly discussed.
19. Where decisions are required, the chair usually takes a vote.
20. Decisions are made through a majority vote. However, in certain (rare) situations the
chair may override the majority decision.
21. Although the chair is responsible to ensure that discussion on the agenda items is made
in both wholesome and orderly fashion, the participants must also ensure that their
contribution is made in a positive and a courteous manner.
22. The chair should have the ‘air’ characterized by a blend of power and respect. This
depends on personality, exposure and experience of the chair. Without such demeanor, it
will be difficult to achieve the objectives of a business meeting.
23. Irrespective of the level of meeting, the discourse is formal and, in some cases,
intimidating. This requires careful verbal and non-verbal (body language) communication.
Participants should be sensitive to the ‘pecking order’ (employee position and seniority).
24. Active listening is as necessary as active speaking. Active listening also portrays positive
body language.
25. Some organizations recognize employee seniority by maintaining an attendance list for
meetings in a manner where job titles and/or seniority are taken into account. More ‘open’
organizations, however, do not dwell on this issue and prefer a more informal system for
listing members attending a meeting. A popular format is alphabetical listing. Usually, the
only exception in this case is that the name of the chair is at the top of the list.
26. General mannerism include speaking in turn, speaking to the point, courteous tone, cool
demeanor, patient listening and respecting other point of views, interrupting only by raise of
hand, good body language, sensing the mood and bent of the chair with respect to any
strategic or tactical issue, not monopolizing airtime, maintaining proper eye contact with the
chair and other members --- especially if the person is speaking, avoiding murmuring and
cross-talk, not entering into heated arguments, keeping emotions to a minimum, not
obstructing the view of other participants by change of position of seat and/or posture, taking
refreshments in a decent manner and being sensitive to the need for and access to
refreshments for other participants and not to dose off.
27. Show sensitivity to the fact that discussion on an issue does not linger on unnecessarily.
28. Note that the chair can control and moderate the discussion in a meeting, but it is best
that participants ‘do not cross the limit.’
29. The person writing minutes (the ‘scribe’) should listen carefully, noting important points
raised and decisions made. The scribe should not participate actively in the discussion as this
might distract him from documenting the proceedings.
30. Ensure that the chair distributes the meeting agenda to all relevant participants
beforehand.
31. The general practice is that agenda notice accompanies the minutes of the previous
meeting.
32. Time management is important. Although there is a general tendency for meetings to
overshoot the time allocated, it is important that meetings should start and end on time.
33. An important decorum issue is the use of cell phones and other communication devices.
Essentially, all such devices should be switched off or set on a silent mode. It is advisable to
use subtle ways for dissuading people from using cell phones and other communication
devices during meetings. Wedge-shaped stands saying ‘thank you for switching off your cell
phones’ or ‘please switch off your mobile phones’ is a polite way of managing this issue.
However, note that in more formal and high-powered meetings the use of signs indicating
that mobile phones are not allowed might not be considered polite. They connote a command
and therefore it is best to use other request modes.
34. Seating should depict congeniality. It is best to cluster near the head of the table and
avoid leaving empty seats between participants.
35. Exercise care with respect to discussing matters relating to the meeting both before and
after the meeting. What is discussed in a meeting could be a sensitive matter and it is best to
avoid the ‘grapevine.’ Staying away from the grapevine is advisable in all situations.
36. Distribute minutes of the meeting.