Meetings are a way of sharing, within a group of individuals, the same level of knowledge of a subject or a problem and of making decisions collectively. Additionally, decisions made collectively, with representatives of the various entities involved, will be much more easily accepted by all concerned.
However, meetings are "chronophagic" (read: "they eat up a lot of time") and must therefore be as brief as possible and run with a high degree of efficiency, in order, in particular, to reach specific actions to be taken.
The conduct of a meeting
refers to all actions to be taken in order to organize and carry out a meeting in good conditions, allowing for monitoring of its effects.
This article is a collection of recommendations to help you organize your meetings. These are in no way mandatory prescriptions.
Before the meeting
Occasion of the meeting
First of all, the purpose of having a meeting must be clearly reflected in order to avoid succumbing to "acute meetingitis":
- What is the objective of the meeting?
- Would a teleconference suffice?
- Would a web conference or virtual (Internet) meeting suffice?
Scope of the meeting
- Number and capacity of participants: It is desirable to restrict the number of participants to avoid reducing efficiency. It is also necessary to harmonize the participant profile, in particular with regard to technical or political level.
- Duration: Ideally, the meeting should not last longer than 2 hours.
- Agenda: The agenda delineates the work schedule into well-formulated subjects. It is necessary to set correct time frames for the various agenda items
Date and reservation of the room
Depending on the number of participants, it is necessary to find a free conference room on a date when the participants are available. The school vacation periods, in particular, should be avoided to the extent possible.
The date of the meeting must be set at least 15 days in advance, in order to allow invitations and notices to be sent to the participant within a decent time frame.
In particular, the room should be chosen based on the following constraints:
- Capacity of the room (in terms of seats);
- Dimensions and shape of the room (depending on presentation or activities);
- Need for Internet access;
- Presence of computers and audiovisual equipment (video projector).
Notice to participants
Distribute the agenda to all participants, specifying, amongst other things, the location and starting and ending times of the meeting. Where appropriate, transmit an access plan summarizing the main facilities (subway, bus stop, railway station) near the meeting site.
If possible, and in order to optimize the efficiency of exchanges, a preparatory document, sent in advance of the meeting and specifying the context, including, if applicable, a few key issues, will allow participants to better prepare for participation.
- Notice: Depending on the business or organization, notice should be provided so that the individuals involved can be given assignments. There are regulatory constraints that allow for validation of staff travel.
- Invitation: an invitation should be addressed to the participants other than the staff of the business or organization.
During the meeting
A "round-table discussion" allows each participant to introduce himself briefly, thus allowing new people or external personnel to know the title of each participant.
It is strongly recommended that you ask participants to make a special effort when describing their activities and, in particular, to avoid using abbreviations and acronyms.
Designation of a secretary
It is desirable to "designate a volunteer" to draft the report. In the case of a series of meetings, each participant should take a turn as secretary.
For meetings involving individuals with a particular assignment, it is necessary to circulate a signature sheet to allow financial services to validate the travel costs. A model signature sheet is attached to this document.
Summary of the previous report of decisions
For all useful purposes, in the case of a series of meetings, the decisions made in the previous meeting may be reviewed, to refresh the memory of the participants or to monitor the progress of their implementation.
Review of the agenda
Before getting to the core of the matter, it may be useful to briefly recap the day's agenda, the time allotted to each subject, and the participants.
The important agenda items should preferably be addressed at the beginning of the meeting, where concentration is at a maxium and in order to eliminate the risk of glossing over them at the end of the meeting.
Putting the participants at ease
In order to put the participants at ease, coffee can be served at the beginning of the meeting, or simple bottles of water can be distributed to the participants. Additionally, a room of the right size and with the right temperature may improve the efficiency of a meeting.
Drafting a decision report
A "decision report", created collectively by all participants, allows you to highlight the major decisions made during the discussions. The decision report should be merely passive: a person should be put in charge of implementing each action, including a provisional date.
Date of the next meeting
In the case of a series of meetings, it may be worthwhile to take advantage of the presence of the participants to agree upon a mutually acceptable date for the subsequent meeting(s).
After the meeting
Drafting the minutes
It is strongly recommended to draft minutes while the meeting is still fresh in your mind, directly after the meeting, because notes taken during the meeting speak to the "medium-term memory". The minutes should, in particular, include the following:
- Subject of the meeting
- Date of the meeting
- Participants (and persons excused),
- Summary of every agenda item,
- Report of decisions
At a minimum, if there are no minutes, it is indispensable to create a simple decision report.
The minutes have several purposes:
- Recording decisions
- Formalize the work done to allow, e.g., persons excused or otherwise absent from the meeting to know about the beginning and end.
- Capitalize the information for memory.
Distribute the minutes
The minutes should be distributed to all participants for validation. After approximately one week, if anyone has proposed any amendments, the final minutes should be re-sent to all participants.