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Arvi Krishnaswamy

Entrepreneur and Tech Executive

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Do you feel at times that you are in so many meetings that you just arent adding much value? Or that you are in an ad-hoc meeting where you land up and the discussion goes completely off course? And group IQ goes down with the increasing number of participants? Or are you usually just too busy looking at your blackberry or answering email to bother?

Organizing meetings is not easy, especially in today's globalized world with attendees from different timezones and continents, several distractions, and analysis paralysis. I've learnt a few tips in my career on organizing meetings effectively from a number of sources (particularly Marissa Mayer from Google, and various colleagues and partners I've worked with). I can't say that I successfully practice them, but they've served as good guidance and I wanted to share them on my blog and solicit feedback and inputs.

  • Set a firm agenda - Ensure this goes out before the meeting, and give people sufficient time to prepare. This is your agreement on what the focus of the meeting will be.
  • Assign a note taker - Preferably on a rotation basis, have the attendees take notes and distribute them. The focus of the notes is best served by capturing key updates, decisions made, and action items.
  • Track follow-ups - Review follow-ups from previous meetings to ensure focus on execution is not lost
  • Carve out micro-meetings - Carve out blocks of time (15 minutes for example)for smaller self-contained topics such as updates on certain initiatives.
  • Rotate timings - Especially in today's globalized world, where we have attendees from multiple timezones, someone at one end of the spectrum lands up having to wake up early or stay up late. Encouraging rotation of the meeting times (for instance, once a quarter) ensures balance.
  • Discourage politics, use data - This is particularly hard especially without sufficient data, but it is important to drive discussions with focus on customer feedback data, and not a culture around just personal relationships.
  • Stick to the clock - Says it all.
  • Seperate strategic topics from tactical updates - Often, I tend to see that especially weekly meetings which mix tactical and strategic topics become tactical in nature with people just sharing updates. If that happens, I've found it useful to either have a seperate meeting on the strategic topic, or to just have 2 weekly meetings. This facilitates a tighter, focused tactical meeting and a more creative discussion on strategic topics.

Are there tips you'd like to add to this list? How do you usually run your meetings? Are there stories (well run meetings, and/or meetings gone bad) that you'd like to share?