Some tips from a previous page on this blog about meetings…
Two Types of Meetings
One type of meeting is for the purpose of people with something in common (a project, a department, a role, a skill set, an interest, etc.) to gather and have a free form exchange of ideas. These types of meetings need only a clear topic and basic shared ground rules (at a minimum, always be respectful) to be productive.
The other type is to accomplish one or more specific goals. If there are more than three goals, some will be missed (and some can still be missed with only three). These types of meetings require a specific agenda beyond the meeting topic. They require that someone is recognized by all as the leader or facilitator or moderator and that person knows how to perform in that role. They require someone good at note taking to be the scribe (or a method of recording the meeting on a shareable medium). If the meeting is missing any of things, any successful outcomes are the result of luck or the meeting was really one of the first type.
Record All Web Conferences
It is a good habit to record the web conferences you host and request other hosts to record and post the recordings for participants. This allows you to focus more on the meeting rather than taking notes. It also provides a reliable source of reference when different attendees later have varying recollections of statements and decisions made in meetings.
Prepare to Participate in Project Retrospectives
The project retrospective is a chance to commit the lessons learned to memory. The issues with retrospectives come in bookend-form: It takes a long time to get the creativity and honesty flowing at the start of the retrospective and the captured lessons are rarely referenced by anyone not in the meeting. For the latter, you can blog about the lessons you’ve learned and for the former you can come prepared (you’d be surprised how often you are the only one).
To be prepared, it is best to keep running notes throughout the project (I use Evernote) or at least to put together some thoughts at least a day in advance of the meeting. If you are the only person that does this you can single-handedly knock over that first bookend (just like that couple that would always be the first to dance in school).
I strongly suggest that you have as many positive items available as possible so that you are ready to start it off on a good note. If you have several, space them out if others do not
Another approach that I have found to be successful may seem counter-intuitive: Make your first “area for improvement” shared something that you were responsible for. This is especially important if you are the first to provide it because by honestly recognizing and sharing your own contribution to things that went wrong it will ease the concern others have of being picked on. The group will be more relaxed and open up sooner, making the meeting highly productive.
© Scott S. Nelson