“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” – Gourd’s Axiom
Ever been to an unproductive meeting? Ever been to a meeting that went too long? Does the word “Meeting” make your skin crawl?
Here’s how to make your meetings more productive:
- Create an agenda. Communicate clearly what you hope to accomplish and what will happen at the meeting – make sure you know this before you call the meeting. If you don’t have clarity, you probably don’t need to meet at this point. Many meetings are called to address huge problems, but you have to climb that mountain one step at a time. If your agenda will take six hours, decide on the first step or milestone and cover that in the first meeting.
- Consider who to invite. There may be reasons why you need to include certain people due to office politics, but the less the better. People with a reason and a role make the best participants.
- Circulate the agenda. Indicate who is expected to participate and where. Expect preparation on the part of the attendees. Instead of having an agenda item like “Sales Performance”, consider having each person prepare to present their relevant numbers, new initiatives, progress, one challenge, etc. Have them come prepared to report – indicate their participation requirements on the agenda. If you don’t have the authority to require their participation, have someone with the authority to ‘reply all’ voicing their agreement with the expectation that everyone come prepared.
- Start on time. End on time. Prohibit interruptions. Tell them you will start and end on time and stay true to your word. Communicate that everyone will be expected to stay during the meeting – leaving even for a 3 minute phone call may require you cover material again when they return. People will appreciate this stringency because their time will be well spent.
- Stay on agenda. Set time limits for each item if you need to.
- Get the results you said you would. If your plan was to come up with new strategies to address slumping sales, then make sure before everyone leaves strategies have been generated, responsibilities and deadlines have been assigned, accountability measures have been put into action and follow up timeframes have been clearly identified. Have someone record and email these items.
- Address the elephants in the room. If someone is taking the meeting off track, obviously negative or thwarting progress with their participation, address it – everyone will appreciate you for it. “Mark, I’m hearing that you have some serious concerns about our ability to increase sales. We are addressing today how we will do that, not if we will. It’s important we get all our ideas out on the table before we decide that they will not work. Their viability could be covered in a future meeting. I’d be happy to get with you after this meeting to address your concerns before that future conversation. Does that work for you?”
Meetings do not run themselves and getting a group of great people in a room never guarantees that anything will get done, especially what you want to get done. Take charge-only call a meeting if you need one and can adhere to the above guidelines.