Effective meetings

How many times have you emerged from a stuffy meeting room, sheaf of papers under your arm, cold cup of coffee in hand and thought to yourself: “That was a really good meeting.”

Once, twice, most of the time? You’re one of the lucky ones.

Meetings often start with the best of intentions, only to meander along, blown this way and that by pre-conceptions, poor preparation, ennui, the odd overbearing personality, until, at the appointed finish time they whimper and close; perhaps the only note of their passing, an email to ‘pick this up again next time’.

How enduring partnerships grow from good governance

The framework

But what if there was a framework to ensure that every meeting started on time, stayed on track and went on to deliver what it set out to achieve? That would be something worth remembering, and that’s why people who are ‘good’ at meetings have turned to mnemonics for help. A mnemonic is a device that aids or improves memory and usually takes the form of a memorable word or phrase that ‘spells out’ a message. Other professions – from physicians and lawyers to musicians and driving instructors – use mnemonics successfully, so why shouldn’t we?

Attendees should feel that they can contribute to the meeting and that they have defined roles and responsibilities

Our mnemonic

With that in mind, we at Veramed set out to see if we could construct a simple mnemonic that would remind us what good meetings were all about – making our company more effective, strengthening our teams, and making team engagement an enjoyable and efficient use of time. The mnemonic we arrived at was designed to be memorable (of course) and to re-enforce the belief that effective meetings are all about people working together in harmony towards a common goal.

The mnemonic acts as a reminder of the successful elements that comprise a ‘good’ meeting. Not all meetings have the same purpose, but the effectiveness of any meeting boils down to these key concepts.

A is for AGENDA. This ensures that everyone going to the meeting knows what’s going to be discussed, whether or not they need to prepare and who’s leading the meeting. It also defines the purpose of the meeting.

N is for NECESSITY. Do we need to hold the meeting now, will it start and finish on time, are the right people invited and are we able to cover all the items on the agenda?
I is for INFORM. It’s important that the right people attend – and not the wrong people. You need the personnel present who can take action on the conclusions that arise from the meeting.
C is for CHAIR. This is the person who keeps the meeting on track and who decides when to take a discussion offline, or even ‘park’ the meeting until later. They also make sure that proper minutes are taken, because without minutes, people don’t take action.
E is for ETIQUETTE. The way a meeting is conducted is vital. It starts by choosing the right chair, then giving people the opportunity to speak, respecting diverging opinions (whilst not allowing a meeting to turn into an argument or tolerating rudeness) right through to simple practicalities: for example, at Veramed we try to engender the philosophy of focusing on the task at hand – laptops only for the purpose of the meeting, mobile phones set to silent (or better, turned off).

T is for TIMELY. Has the meeting been set at the appropriate point in the project so that it’s still possible to take meaningful action that will impact the process in a positive way?
E is for ENGAGEMENT. Attendees should feel that they can contribute to the meeting and that they have defined roles and responsibilities.
A is for ACTIONS. Remember the point of the meeting is to achieve a set of clearly-stated goals.
M is for MINUTES. Accurate minutes are the unsung heroes of any effective meeting because they help turn intentions into actions. They don’t need to be long and detailed, and can just be a list of actions with person assigned and expected timeline for delivery.

The result? A NICE TEAM is a mnemonic which reminds all of us at Veramed of the components and actions that go together to make an effective meeting. Handy then, that we also think it aptly links to our Veramed values.

Feel free to adopt it in your own company if you feel it could do the same for you.

Veramed is a CRO that provides a range of high quality biostatistics and programming services for the design, reporting and analysis of clinical trials.

Please get in touch for more information.

Accurate minutes are the unsung heroes of any effective meeting because they help turn intentions into actions