Mastering the meeting

Meeting in oval office, Gerald FordIn Digital Library Services, we are currently coordinating or consulting on more than 40 digital projects in various states of production. To ensure that these projects actually come to fruition during all parties’ lifetimes we must take a project-based approach to our work. This means insisting on project planning, setting target dates, and establishing checkpoints. This also means we must call or attend countless meetings.
To my mind, there is not greater work-related torture than sitting through a poorly-run meeting. I say that knowing that I still have plenty to learn about running a tight meeting myself. But during the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia earlier this month, I attended a one-day seminar by Pat Wagner called, “Mission Impossible: Practical Project Management,” that provided some great project meeting techniques. Here are just a few of my faves from Wagner, a consultant, trainer, and co-owner of Pattern Research, Inc.:



  • Meetings should start with plans–ground-rules pertaining to what will be accomplished, priorities, who is in charge of controlling the meeting, agreement that everyone speaks, no one dominates, and everyone listens respectfully, etc.
  •  Meetings should start on time.
  • Participants speak only to add new information.
  • Participants agree what will happen when projects miss deadlines or are not done correctly. (In other words, who can take a project away?)
  • Participants are “realistic and honest about what can be done with the people, time and resources we have. No martyrdom, no rescuing.”
  • “Age, credentials, tenure, education and other status do not give us privilege or protection from constructive criticism. Legitimate authority and universal respect is the key.”
  • “If the plan is in your head, there is no plan.”
  • No tangents/non-meeting business.
  • “Avoid the Victorian mindset. Instead, use technology, write in bullets, reduce useless ritual, speak concisely, avoid elitism, laugh lots.”

–Nicole Saylor, Head, Digital Library Services