Meetings are a way of sharing, within a group of individuals, some knowledge about a subject or a problem and of making decisions collectively.
However, meetings are chronophagic (meaning "they eat up a lot of time"). Therefore, it is best to be as brief as possible and run with a high degree of efficiency, in order to reach specific actions to be taken.
The organization 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 conduct a meeting.
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, that is too frequent and pointless meetings. You should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the objective of the meeting?
- Would a teleconference be enough?
- Would a web conference or a virtual meeting suffice?
Scope of the meeting
There are also some organization points to consider, such as:
- 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 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. It is better to avoid the school vacation periods when possible.
The date of the meeting must be set in advance (at least 15 days sounds good), in order to allow invitations and notices to be sent to the participant within a decent time frame.
The meeting 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
It is important to distribute the agenda to all participants, specifying, amongst other things, the location and starting and ending times of the meeting. When appropriate, pass on an access plan summarizing the main facilities (subway, bus stop, railway station) near the meeting site.
In order to optimize the efficiency of exchanges and increase the participation, you may want to send in advance a preparatory document for the meeting. The information in it may include the context or the main points.
- Notice: Depending on the business or organization, a 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 themselves briefly, thus allowing new people or external participants to know the title of everyone.
It is strongly recommended that you ask participants to avoid using abbreviations and acronyms.
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.
Summary of the previous report of decisions
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.
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 could take a turn as secretary.
Review of the agenda
Before getting to the core of the matter, it may be useful to briefly recap the meeting's agenda, the time allotted to each subject, and the participants.
The important points should preferably be addressed at the beginning of the meeting, where concentration is at its peak.
Putting the participants at ease
In order to put the participants at ease, coffee and/or water can be served at the beginning of the meeting. 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.
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 after the meeting, while it is still fresh in your mind. The minutes could include the following:
- Subject of the meeting.
- Date of the meeting.
- Participants (and persons excused).
- Summary of every agenda item.
- Report of decisions.
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.
At a minimum, if there are no minutes, it is indispensable to create a simple decision report.
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.
Conducting Effective Virtual Meetings
With the pandemic due to COVID-19, virtual conferences are more and more commun, and chances are you have already participated in a Zoom meeting, or wondered how to conduct a Zoom meeting. In order to carry out an online conference, you should keep in mind its advantages and disadvantages, and also, set some rules.
Advantages of Virtual Meetings
- Less in a hurry: without the constraints of traffic, it is easier for participants to be on time. Also, if the meeting takes place in the beginning of the day, it is likely that they got more sleep.
- More comfortable at home: for many people, it is more comfortable to participate in a meeting from home because the physical environment is already adapted to their personal needs.
Disadvantages of Virtual Meetings
- Less comfortable at home: you should also keep in mind that participating in a meeting from home may be more difficult for some. For example, this may be the case of people with children, in small apartments, or loud neighbours.
- Internet connection and equipment: problems due to a poor Internet connection and electronic devices are also commun.
It may be important to set some rules for the meeting but also for yourself.
- Cameras and microphones: most online conference platforms have the option of turning off the camera and/or the microphone. It may be a good idea to decide in advance how to proceed with the participants during the meeting.
- Encourage participation: it is more difficult to pay attention to the reactions of the participants during a virtual meeting because we cannot see them in real size and the video image is often too small. This means that you will have to make extra effort to animate the discussion and make sure to include everyone in the decisions.
- Make sure everyone is listening: it is easier to get distracted by something on our computer - take the time to make sure everyone is paying attention to the topic.
- Feedback: Take the time to discuss with the team the actions to take in order to optimize the virtual meetings.
- Screen fatigue and Zoom fatigue: Staring at the screen for too long can cause eye fatigue. In the case of virtual meetings, this can be even harder because participants have to stare at the same image. In comparison, their eyes can rest during an ordinary meeting, by looking away to different objects and directions that are at variable distance and thus, the eye muscles aren’t permanently stimulated.