Who should I invite to my meetings?

Meetings should exist for one purpose only – to change the attitudes and/or understanding of the people attending.
The products of an effective meeting leave the ‘room’ in the heads and the hearts of the attendees. If everybody leaving a meeting has exactly the same attitudes and understanding as they did when they arrived, then the meeting has simply been a waste of time!

Therefore, the people you invite to a meeting will be a mixture of those for whom you want their attitudes or understanding to change, and those whose inputs are required to effect those changes.
In many cases, these may be exactly the same people. People who are part of neither group should not be included in the meeting, or their time will be wasted.
Equally, for full efficiency, people whose inputs or changes only relate to a small part of the meeting should only be present for that part (even if that means breaking up the meeting into different bits, or setting up syndicate groups within the meeting). This may not always be practical, but we must then accept the inevitability of some loss of efficiency.
For those people who have tended to think of meetings as an activity rather than a process, these statements may prove rather challenging. They may fear that their own involvement in meetings, or the involvement of others in their meetings, may be under threat – but that need not be the case.
If people want to be part of those meetings, and if they want to retain people at their own meetings, there is almost certainly a good reason for this – but if so, that reason needs to be made explicit.
Everybody who is part of a meeting should have a clear understanding of why they are there. If they don’t, the danger is they may end up focusing on something else, and then the meeting loses its effectiveness.
Inspirometer asks meeting participants to rate meetings in terms of how effectively it utilised their time – whether that was to add value to others, or have value added to themselves.
Knowing exactly what value should have been added, and where, will help people to provide this rating more objectively. The article on  The Purpose of Meetings may help you clarify people’s expectations.
Thinking in these terms may also help you to identify opportunities to improve productivity by involving people in different ways. For instance by sharing inputs through the preparation activity, or involving people for only the part of the meeting, or doing more work off-line.
For your next meeting, you may find the following questions helpful:
  • Have all the people necessary for success been invited?
  • Do they need to be there for the whole meeting?
  • Will they find the meeting a good use of their time?
  • Does it make sense to break it down into two or more shorter meetings with different participants?
Once you are sure on your answers to these questions, the next question is: “Are the attendees also clear?” For more on this point see  Contracting participation.
One tool that can help you identify who to involve in your meetings, in what form, and for what proportion of the time, is the RACI chart. This can also help you to consider options for involving and consulting people without taking their time up with the (whole) meeting.

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