Ask any professional person, “What are the biggest drags on your time?”, and the chances are that meetings will be high on the list. Meetings can be a productivity – and profit – drain, to say nothing of being energy-sappers. Too often, meetings are ineffective because they:
- Lack focus and a clear objective(s)
- Don’t have an agenda with timings
- Stick to the same old format
- Don’t use the right tools for the job
- Aren’t chaired properly
- Don’t deal with differences of opinion
- Start late and take too long
- Don’t get input from all the people in the room
- Lack a clear set of actions at the end
- Aren’t followed up.
Does it really have to be this way? Flip those 10 points round and you have some idea of what’s needed to get meetings on track, such as these 10 tips:
- Have an agenda, with a clear reason for the meeting to take place right at the top. Only items that serve this purpose should go on the agenda; so not the typical grab bag of miscellany too often seen.
- Distribute anything that needs to be studied before the meeting with a note saying that the meeting will proceed on the basis that attendees will have read it.
- Keep the meeting’s objective(s) clearly displayed throughout.
- Appoint a chair for the meeting, whose role is ensure that everyone can contribute, disputes are mediated and that participants stick to the agenda points and the time allocated.
- Appoint a time-keeper, who calls out when there’s 5 minutes, 1 minute, left on an item. This will irritate the hell out of wafflers – which can only be good – so think of ways to bring in some humour or daft props, like a klaxon.
- Appoint a notary. Yes, this sounds beyond basic and no, it seldom happens. And it’s why 10 people can leave a meeting with 10 different interpretations of what was agreed. Chair should check with notary that they’ve got the agreed and action points down. Even better, get the notary to write them up on a flip chart as the meeting progresses.
- Start and end on time. Or take a leaf from Google’s book and end 10 minutes before the scheduled time, thus preventing the need for time/space travel between adjacent meetings.
- Use different techniques to ensure everyone contributes, such as Post-It note flurries or pairs/trios brainstorming and presenting back to the whole group.
- Deal with grandstanders and mic hoggers. Try “I’d like to get everyone’s contribution”, or “Now we need to hear X & Y’s points of view”.
- Close the meeting by asking each person present to state their action points and timings (and if they don’t have any, why are they there?)
These 10 tips may sound like plain common sense; yet it’s my observation that they’re not common practice. Where I’ve seen them in action it’s usually the case that the organisation is both productive and profitable.
You may find this blog post useful: 8 signs your team may need a tune-up
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.