If you are responsible for an item on a meeting agenda, apply these simple criteria to make sure the time you are given is productive for everyone attending the meeting.

Do you want discussion?

NO:  If the answer is no, be sure to advise attendees right away that this part of the meeting is meant to be a presentation, not a discussion, otherwise they might be eager to offer input. It’s best to use a one-directional presentation format only when time is limited in the meeting, when there are many people attending the meeting, or when the people in the meeting are not likely to be significantly impacted by the information being presented. Otherwise, it may be useful to allow everyone time to discuss the topic.

YES:  If you know that the topic is one that people are eager to discuss, be sure to build ample time into the agenda. Let participants know that they will have the opportunity to discuss the topic openly and that any input is welcome.

Do you need to collect information from the meeting attendees?

NO:  If the answer is no, simply let attendees know that this particular portion of the meeting will be a presentation only.

YES:  If you need input from others in the meeting, let them know what kind of input you need (e.g. “It would be great if you could let me know what resources you have to contribute to this project?” or “Please share any input you have about how this change might affect your team.”)

Does a decision need to be made by the people attending the meeting?

NO:  If no decision needs to be made during the meeting or by those attending the meeting, let participants know who will make the decision and when they can expect an update informing them of the decision that was made.

YES:  If you do need participants to decide something during the meeting let them know as soon as possible, preferably when the meeting is announced, so they have time to prepare and conduct any necessary research or collection of information to inform their decision-making.  Clearly state what decision you are asking them to make and inform attendees of what process you will use to make the decision (e.g. majority rule or unanimous consent).

Rick Buccheri
Director of Programs