By Heino Molls
If I had a nickel for every minute I have sat through meetings for work or with various community organizations, I swear I would be a millionaire. I am so wary of meetings now that when people ask me to come out, my first thought is to find a way to not attend.
So here are a few thoughts for anyone who is thinking about holding a meeting at work or in their community. I hope it will be helpful and you do not read this as sour grapes from an old war horse who has been to a lot of community meetings and business-related committee gatherings.
To start with, you can’t meet with an overwhelming number of people. The ideal number of attendees is about six, and no more than eight. Once you get beyond that you have a recipe for pandemonium or boredom, depending on the dynamics of the people in attendance.
As you add to the number of people in the room you are making it more difficult to accommodate everyone’s ideas and the opportunity to have full and thoughtful consideration to the contributions of everyone attending.
More than 20 people at a meeting is not a meeting. You cannot have any meaningful back and forth discussion with those numbers. You can have a town hall gathering or a learning seminar that can be very productive but that is a whole different thing and a rant for another day.
A meeting with more than eight people needs a skilful chair to move it along. The success of a meeting depends almost entirely on the ability of a good facilitator and some good planning to keep it from bogging down.
The greatest challenge is always the inevitable one or two individuals looking to hoard the time of the whole group. Even with a good chairperson, a few strong-minded people in attendance can easily reduce a productive meeting into long argument.
Time is important, so setting out an agenda and making certain everyone receives it ahead of the meeting is critical. The chairperson has to clearly explain that the agenda must be followed and any discussion that wanders away from the topic will quickly be returned to the agenda item. Those coming to a meeting should know the agenda, they should be prepared to speak to those topics only and they should understand that they are not to digress.
Speaking of time, it is critical to move a meeting along and that begins with telling everyone to arrive on time. I realize that a person can be delayed due to unexpected circumstances and I can understand that at a meeting of 12 people, maybe one person might be late but not more than that. If you have a meeting of 20 people and five or six people arrive late, I would take that as a sign of arrogance and disrespect for everyone who came to the meeting on time.
Personally, I would say if you are late, you should wait outside for a break in the discussion or a stop for refreshments and then join the meeting at that time instead of coming in at your convenience, disturbing everyone with your personal arrival.
On a completely different topic, we have a big change at REM. We are going to be printing issues and running e-newsletters without the contributions of Marty Douglas. I know it sounds like I am in denial but I am hoping that Marty will be unable to stay away from pontificating to the real estate industry in Canada and that we may see at least some occasional columns from him in the future. His contribution has been powerful and thought-provoking to the point that it has caused conversations at sales meetings and directors’ tables right across Canada. Marty, you have an open invitation to come back to our pages any time.