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Making the Most of Meetings

Making the Most of Meetings

Meetings.  *Cue exasperated sighs*  Many people consider meetings to be the bane of their existence, useless wastes of time and effort that only result in miscommunication and frustration.  Though they may not always be thrilling, if a meeting is not at least productive it seriously needs to be reevaluated.  If meeting effectiveness is far from optimal, perhaps it can be improved by reassessing the purpose of the meeting.  Not all meetings are created equally, and their differences need to be recognized and acknowledged.  Understanding and remembering the purpose and situation of a meeting throughout its progression should cause meetings to be much more effective and considered at least bearable instead of terrible.

Many team projects and initiatives begin with a brainstorming meeting.  Brainstorming can be a very effective way to discover and develop a wide list of options, seeing what ones the group finds worth exploring further.  However, group members must keep in mind that initial brainstorming sessions are meant to name as many feasible ideas as possible before actually discussing any in any great depth.  I find it very irritating on school projects when everyone is trying to explore general project possibilities and one person is bent on debating every intricacy of the assignment, leading to very few possibilities actually being explored.  As the meeting progresses to settle on an actual idea, the pros and cons of the final few options can be further discussed, but in general, for a brainstorming meeting to be effective, it should focus on initially exploring as many ideas as possible before focusing and deciding on a singular option.

On the other hand, project meetings are meant to focus on the details or individual points of an assignment or project.  Usually smaller in nature, the people most involved in the project can sit down and hash out each step of the initiative in a comprehensive plan.  Every attendee at a project meeting should be involved, ensuring that no oversights are made or flaws left unexposed.  Much less exploratory in nature than brainstorming meetings, they lead to a more mature, developed project.  For a project to be successful, all team members must remain on the same page and work together, and this cannot happen without communication, most effectively done at meetings.

Presentation meetings have a very different atmosphere.  Rather than an open discussion where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas, presentations are opportunities for one or two people to share their expertise or knowledge with the rest of those assembled.  Attendees should get the most out of the meeting by taking notes, staying engaged, and asking applicable questions.  At their core, presentations should be approached as learning opportunities, whether it be a new project, initiative, or just additional helpful knowledge.

Meetings can also be opportunities for a team to gather and touch base.  After a period of working independently, it is very important to hold a staff meeting to discuss progress, issues, and upcoming goals.  Important messages can be communicated directly to a larger audience, and decisions can be made with the input of and in the presence of the entire team.  Staff meetings require an agenda and leader so that they keep moving and stay somewhat on subject.  If allowed to drag or ramble, they can easily become tedious and inefficient, but if constrained to sharing of overall status and important information, they remain ideal occasions to gather as a team.

Client meetings can take many different forms.  They can alternatingly be organized as opportunities to present information to a large audience of employees, conduct discussions with key people in the other business, or catch up and enforce the two business’ relationship in a more informal setting.  It is very important to be aware of the type of meeting before actually traveling to it, as a presentation with 50 people requires different preparation, dress, and mindset than a lunch gathering with two executives.  Since people have a greater geographic separation between two businesses than within a company building, their limited opportunities to meet become all the more important.  As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, effective communication is a very important part of successful business relationships, so the opportunity to have face-to-face discussions with other companies is integral in maintaining positive relationships in the business world.

If one would approach all meetings with the same mindset, they would clearly fail to make the most of the varying opportunities they offer.  Rather than finding meetings occasions to help themselves and their company, they would consider them ineffective and miserable.  By recognizing each meeting for the positive aspects it has to offer and understanding each one’s unique situation, one can much better appreciate and make the most of meetings.

Paul Birch

Paul was a KIG intern during the summer of '16 where he earned himself the nickname "Pauly-B." In 2019, he graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor's degree in Risk Management and Actuarial Science. He is now an actuarial analysis at Aetna, where they probably just call him "Paul."

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