We’ve all been subjected to them—seemingly purposeless meetings that go on forever, one person dominating the discussion while everyone else stares at their phones. And outside the meeting room door, work is piling up.
Done right, however, meetings can not only foster an efficient exchange of ideas, but also encourage teamwork and provide opportunities for creativity and problem-solving. Which is exactly why companies are still holding them, and holding them often. In fact, meetings have been increasing in length and frequency over the last 50 years, with senior managers now spending as much as 23 hours a week attending them.
So how can you avoid wasting your time and that of your employees with ineffective meetings everyone dreads attending?
* * *
(1) Set an Efficient Agenda
A well-designed agenda will provide those in attendance with a good sense of why the meeting is being held, what you’d like to accomplish, and how long it should last. Any outside materials that need to be reviewed should be included, and the entire packet should be distributed far enough in advance that the attendees actually have time to read it.
Bonus points if you send a follow-up email after the meeting, reiterating what was accomplished and drawing attention to any outstanding action items.
(2) Think Twice Before Scheduling
So your predecessor always held a full-staff meeting on Mondays at 7 a.m.—that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Look closely at your agenda, and think about whether you can accomplish the goals set forth within through a one-on-one meeting with the right person—or even via email or phone. Only invite those who have a clear reason to attend.
If your needs change, or key players can no longer be there, don’t be afraid to cancel a meeting, or to reschedule.
(3) Stay on Target
You have the agenda, now stick to it—a business meeting is not the time for general information sharing. Show your employees that you value their time by starting the meeting on schedule. Encourage participation by setting the ground rules early on (no cell phones is a good one) and managing those employees who do not follow them. And even if you have a full hour of time blocked off, call the meeting to a close when you get through the agenda items, whether that took 47 minutes or a mere 12.
(4) Utilize the Correct Meeting Room
Think about how your team works and how many people you expect to attend the meeting, then choose an appropriately sized room with the features necessary to make the meeting a success. These could be anything from tall tables to facilitate a standing meeting to videoconferencing capabilities so you can include a colleague working from home—or even just ensuring there’s plenty of coffee.
For more on choosing the best room for your meeting, see Increasing Efficiency of Meetings Through Better Use of Conference Space.
* * *
Kim Pierson for CoeoSpace