Meetings are important for any group or organisations to exchange information and discuss issues. Most meetings don’t have a clear agenda, and when they do, they are not as specific as needed. So sometimes it’s hard to cope. But knowing what to expect and getting ready is important. Here are a few things we think are worth considering, for better meetings:

Know the agenda. always know that the meeting is about. If the agenda was not communicated, always try to imagine what points might be discussed and be sure you’re ready to engage. If you’re supposed to meet a person, always feel free to ask them what the meeting is about – unless they’re a friend and the purpose is to socialise.

Know the people in the room. Meetings are mostly about communication and problem-solving. For better or for worse, always try to know the people you’re meeting with, what they do, their role on the table, and, to go further, how they think and their expectations.

If you’re not the billionaire in the room, always take notes. Meetings should generally have one person who’s taking note. They are expected to share the minutes of the meeting within twenty-four hours after, but it doesn’t always happen. And sometimes you want to have something which will remind you of your duties and thoughts on the matters discussed. So, get yourself a notebook – one that you’re comfortable carrying around. Many bookshops in Kigali are selling some really cool ones. Avoid devices if possible. If it’s an informal meeting, and you don’t want to be carrying your notebook around or you don’t want to be using your smartphone or laptop, don’t worry. You can always take note of key points and reflections later when you get home or back at the office.

In a brainstorm session, sit on your pen. So often, when we’re brainstorming, we tend to do it as we hold the pen, ready to write down the next thought. But this can distract the brain. To ensure maximum focus and let the thought process go smooth, it’s better you put down the pen and focus on the main activity. You can take the notes later, when you have a clear picture of the idea. It’s called ‘Sitting on the pen.’ Try it.

Keep them as short as possible. Many meetings in Kigali are long, extremely long. This is mainly due to the fact that people are late and there is always a tendency to want to solve a problem right there. But sometimes it’s impossible. Some issues demand more thought and more thought. Sometimes you need to go and think further and consult colleagues. Some issues can’t be solved in a group meeting. Don’t fool yourself, just discuss, share information, and ask people to follow up. Great meetings generally take between fifteen and thirty minutes. Meetings that take more than forty-five minutes can be boring. Those that take longer are simply torturous. They require high-level creativity.

Learn to ask the right questions. Sometimes there is that person in the room who asks (a) question(s) deemed “not right” or irrelevant. What if it’s you? Learn to ask the right questions by making sure you are informed about the topic, context, and follow the conversations attentively. Where you’re lost, ask the person next to you to offer some clarity.

Avoid meetings that might end up being unproductive. Unless you know exactly what the meeting is about, and if you can, avoid attending a meeting that might end up being just another meeting. Knowing what the meeting is about, and looking at the agenda, you can anticipate what will be discussed. If there is nothing that’s in line with your mission and work, why attend?

Make sure participants are comfortable. You have no idea what the environment does to the human brain. Meetings can be boring and unproductive simply because the meeting room is not well designed. Be sure you’re meeting at a nice place, and don’t forget to offer snack and soft drinks. Some meetings are energy-consuming and you don’t want to see people losing interest just because they’re starving. Be creative. Meet somewhere new, try cafe, or it outdoors over a brief walk.

The minutes. And follow-ups. Be sure the minutes of the meeting are distributed as soon as possible. Don’t assume people will remember everything you discussed or that they will report back on their tasks. Just send reminders as much as you can, but not too much or aggressively.

And more. You’re right. It’s a whole bunch of things. Never ends.

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