22 May 2012

Run an Efficient Meeting

Are your meetings lacking focus?
Learn the art of running an efficient meeting using these five tips.

When I worked at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office every Tuesday we would have an all attorney meeting to discuss the vexing legal issues of the day. It was a round robin discussion in which any examining attorney could bring any trademark application they were examining that, in their opinion, should be discussed by the group.  The meetings were both informative and fun and really helped to disseminate information among the examining attorney ranks on often unique or important topics being addressed in trademark law.

Understanding the importance of continuous re-training when I came to The Trademark Company I attempted to mimic the Tuesday meetings from my days at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  We began having Thursday lunch meetings to have all front-line staff come and discuss, what else, but the vexing legal issues of the day.

Initially the meetings were highly structured with specific agendas that would be worked through. But over time the agendas became less lengthy and the social time at the beginning of the meetings moved from being 10 minutes of the hour-long meetings to 20, 30, and beyond. One day we looked up and the realized that the meetings had become something that they were never intended to be, merely a social hour over lunch wherein nothing work-related was truly being discussed. Shortly thereafter we terminated the meeting.

We have since brought back our weekly meetings but in a much more focused manner. After all, the purpose of a meeting is to get a specific goal accomplished and to have the participants in that meeting contribute to that goal.

With that in mind, we have learned how to run an efficient meeting. In our experience, here's how:

1. Have an Agenda
Prior to the meeting prepare an agenda that will guide you and the attendees through those matters that will be discussed. Make sure all in attendance have a copy of the agenda prior to the meeting being started.

2. State the Purpose and Goals
Begin the meeting with a clear statement of the purpose for the meeting and the goals sought to be achieved.

3. Keep Focused on the the Goals
Throughout the course of the meeting, focus on those goals that were stated at the outset. Minor deviations or sidetracks are permissible, so long as they do not distract too much from the stated purpose. If so, use the agenda to remain on topic so as to move efficiently through the topics towards the stated goal.

4. Conclude with a Summary
At the end of the meeting briefly review that which was discussed and any decisions made to ensure all are in agreement with the same.

5. Memorialize the Results
Immediately following the meeting, or as soon thereafter as practical, memorialize the discussion, decisions, and assignments, if any, determined in the meeting and share a copy of the same with all of those in attendance.

Related articles:
10 Reasons Why Your Brain Hates Long Business Meetings


Written by: Matthew Swyers
Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-sized businesses. The company is also ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list. @TrademarkCo

As published in: INC - 11 May 2012


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