Meetings: Get To The Point

Upon a brief review of my site analytics, I noticed something striking. For the month of February, almost nine percent (9%) of my page views are for one thing:  Free Meeting Minutes Template Back in March 2009, I wrote a post about helpful tips for running a meeting.  With it was a free copy of my meeting minutes template.  So, I think it's time for a brief refresher with a few updates.

Free Meeting Minutes Template Trend Data

When Hosting a Meeting:

[1] Write out the purpose of the meeting with actionable events in mind. e.g. “Provide an updated status, identifying risks and opportunities, and identify new action items.”

[2] Identify your attendee list but only keep those you can map to the actionable events listed in step 1.  There is a difference between an attendee list and a communications distribution list.

[3] Create an agenda.  Never schedule a meeting without a written agenda. A meeting without an agenda is inefficient and a waste of time.

[4] Identify who will run the meeting and who will take notes. It should not be the same person.  Both people should know their roles before the meeting begins.

[5] Ensure discussion points align to the agenda. If the conversation drifts off topic, recommend taking the discussion to another forum.

[6] End the meeting by having the note taker read back discussion points and the action items. Make sure there is a consensus before the meeting ends.

[7] Send out the meeting minutes within one to two days. Consult your distribution list to ensure all necessary people get a copy.

As a disclaimer, I hate meetings.  Many are unnecessary.  But, when meetings are necessary, get them done as quickly as possible.  Get in, get to the point, get out, get back to work.

Bonus Recommendations:

[1] Start on time. If you don't start on time, you can't finish on time.

[2] Do not schedule your meeting to end at the top or bottom of the hour. I'm a fan of the 22 minute meeting.  Have meetings end a little early.  Some people need to get to other meeting and this will help prevent them from being late.

Free High Quality Hand Drawings

While trying to locate some graphics for a recent blog post, I received a notification from Twitter that an account called Pictofigo had followed me.  Curious about who they were, I checked out the Pictofigo website. This was exactly what I was looking for!  Pictofigo provides high quality freehand drawings for project managers, presenters, and web designers in an easy and efficient way. It is 100% free but I would recommend making a donation to keep them motivated.  If I was an adviser to their organization, I would recommend they establish a paid tier and start charging for their product.  With just 172 drawings (graphics) in their database, I would love to see their product offerings grow.

The graphics remind me a lot of a very cool tool called Balsamiq.  You can use Balsamiq to create mockups of websites or applications.  I haven't personally used Balsamiq so maybe I'll contact them to see if I can do a review of their product.  In the meantime, you can go to Pictofigo now and get some graphics.

Graphic: Pictofigo

FollowFriday and Noteworthy Blogs

taken from Twitter I'm going to steal an idea that I've seen used on The Project Centric - How to Manage a Camel blog. They have "Monday Morning Links" where they list blogs to read or people to follow on Twitter.  I found Lindsay Scott and the blog via Twitter on a Follow Friday.  I've been reading the blog ever since, enjoying the excellent Project Management related posts.  I've found other great blogs just by reading their Monday Morning Link posts.

I also look forward to #FollowFriday (FF) on Twitter.  It's a great way to find and begin a conversation with other Project Managers, Agile Enthusiasts, Kanban Practitioners, or anyone else having similar ideas or interests.  I feel bad when I sometimes forget to FF others who really should be reminded they write great stuff.

So, here are a few links to posts from blogs I read on a regular basis and a few people I follow on Twitter.  Twitter is so fast paced, a recommendation can come and go and perhaps be lost in the rapid stream of tweets.  By posting a few blog links here, I think there is a higher probability my praise of them will be heard by others.  In Latin I would say nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.  In layman terms, I would say I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Who's blog I read:

  • Alec Satin This week Alec wrote 7 lessons from a heart attack. It was an excellent post that helped me put things into perspective.  I'm glad Alec will be ok and will continue to post about people, projects, and process.
  • Deep Fried Brain This week Harwinder a.k.a Brian Washer wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly of PMI component chapters.  This was great insight  PMPs (new and seasoned) will find valuable.  This blog provides a lot of excellent information about preparing for the PMP exam or maintaining your PMP credentials.
  • Mike Cottmeyer This week Mike wrote on his Leading Agile blog asking Why is Agile so hard to sell? He went on to ask why wouldn't a management team embrace a set of methodologies so focused on giving them what they need the most?   He's an Agile thinker, writer, consultant, and coffee drinker.

Who I Follow:

@pmstudent - Josh Nankivel helps new and aspiring project managers reach their career goals including gaining experience, education, PMP certification, and more.  He's listed as the "unofficial" most influential Project Manager on Twitter.  His blog is a must read if you're active in the PM community.  He's a member of PMI's New Media Council.  Lastly, he recently released his own product, WBS Coach.  Yes, if you purchase WBS Coach some of the proceeds would go back to me by way of an affiliate fee.  I'm not afraid to say that because I'm honored to be affiliated with what Josh does.  I can't say enough good things about what he does.

That's all I can offer for now.  There are numerous people I would recommend but there is just so much people want to read in a blog post before their eyes start rolling to the back of their heads.

How To Know When A Meeting Has Ended

I just read are very intriguing post by Ken Clyne on the Agile Blog, located at The post was about how problems can arise when people don't realize a meeting is over.  Ken offered one way to avoid the never-ending meeting is by having a clear signal that the meeting has ended. I could not agree more. Don't you just hate it when a meeting has ended, not everyone knows, and people just start to filter out of the area?  I've found myself looking at the meeting host and actually ask if we were done.  That is not a way to conduct a meeting.

Though I believe this applies to all meetings, the daily stand-up (daily scrum) really needs to have a clear beginning and end.  Though some may not agree with me, I like to use a visual aid like a big alarm clock.  Everyone sees the clock ticking away and know a very loud alarm is going to go off at an agreed upon time.  You see people get anxious if others are rambling on and the time is ticking away.  Think back to your youth.  Remember how you knew you were late for class because you heard that starting bell?  Remember how you knew you were dismissed from class because you heard that same bell? Let those years of conditioning motivate the team.  Though I like the visual queue, you should still say something to the team to close the meeting.

Unlike your school days and hearing your assignment is due Monday, I know I've closed meetings with So let it be written, so let it be done, Make it so and May the force be with you.

Link to the original post

Image: Pictofigo