How to Prepare for Your Next Meeting

Four ways to make your minutes around the conference table more productive.

Still eager to add items to your meeting-improvement agenda? There are plenty of resources available that can inform, amuse, and inspire your colleagues around the conference table. You can:

Buy a Book.

Twenty years ago, Michael Doyle and David Straus published "How to Make Meetings Work." It became the handbook for a revolution in meetings that unleashed greater participation and collaboration. The book, since updated, remains a timeless source of ideas and tools, especially on how to be a good facilitator (Jove Books, $4.99, 212-951-8891). Michael Schrage's pithy and provocative "No More Teams!", updated just last year, may be the single smartest primer for smart meetings. Its back-of-the-book User's Guide, dubbed "The One-Minute Collaborator," is full of genuinely original insights on technology-enabled meetings (Doubleday Currency, $14.95, available in most bookstores).

Rent a Video.

An eye-opening way to appreciate how bad your meetings are is to identify with the suffering of others. "Meetings, Bloody Meetings" offers 30 minutes of classic British humor focused on the courtroom trial of a bad meeting leader. It's more expensive than visiting your local Blockbuster, but lots of companies have found it a worthwhile investment. (Video Arts, 800-553-0091. $250 for a five-day rental; $1,850 to buy. Purchase option includes workbooks, a leader's guide, and other materials.) If you're a sucker for sequels, try "More Bloody Meetings," released last year, in which our meeting leader faces new charges. ($250 for a five-day rental; $1,870 to buy. Purchase option includes workbooks, overheads, a video of "reinforcement clips," and a workshop.)

Surf the Net.

The Institute for Better Meetings has a rich Web site (this is an archived article; this URL no longer exists) that posts important articles, offers a 23-point "meeting IQ test," and lets you download software. Another site, TCBWorks: Webware for Teams (http://tcbworks.cba.uga.edu/), lets you test drive meetingware developed at the University of Georgia. The software helps to organize agenda items and enables group voting through simple spreadsheet technology. Its functionality doesn't compare with Ventana's Group-Systems V, but it's free! Facilitator Central (this is an archived article; the content previously on that site has been donated to http://neo-humanista.org/IAFWEB/) has lots of research and tips for people who want to become better facilitators.

Attend a Workshop.

Interaction Associates, a leader in the meeting-improvement business for 25 years, conducts seminars throughout the country. Its two-day "Mastering Meetings" program remains the standard by which all others are judged. In 1996, the $750 course will be available in the following cities: Boston, April 17-18 and September 9-10; Dallas, June 11-12; San Francisco, August 21-22 (Interaction Associates, 415-241-8000; http://www.interactionassociates.com/). The biannual conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, is the foremost gathering of experts in teams, groupware, and electronic meetings. The next conference convenes in Boston from November 16-20 (for information, call 410-269-6801 or visit http://info.sigchi.acm.org/sigchi/cscw96).

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