Meetings are trixie little things when your time is precious, occasionally informative and thought-provoking but all too often they are time consuming or irrelevant or poorly planned or a combination of all three.
Meetings maybe an integral part of business life, I get that! Even so, addressing the wasted hours resulting from ineffective and inefficient meetings could be the single biggest boost to your productivity.
Whatever type of ‘preneur’ you are, an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur (employee, business professional), culturally we seem to still prefer to meet face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice to get things done.
I would like you think about and evaluate honestly your last meeting.
How well did it really go? Did you get an invite to a follow up meeting for the following week, or monthly for an update? Meetings are meant to encourage teamwork, sharing vital information, the truth is that they often simply make it harder to get any work done at all.
Meetings are but another challenge to the productive soul; one that can be solved with a little forward thinking.
Some of the worst meetings I have taken part in are those that are either disorganised, have no agenda or the agendas given to you when you arrive like you have gone to a pot-luck party.
Imagine if you will a meeting where reading time of documents is included as an agenda item because the documents weren’t sent out at least 48 hours prior or the agenda item consists of the person reading the document out and when they finish, they then ask for feedback then and there. Does that’s sound like a productive use of your time?
For any kind of ‘preneur’, this is not the worst business practice to have but it’s definitely down there; in the gutters, with borrowing someone else’s pen, chewing on it and then giving it back – but that’s a rant for a different day.
Try these nine points to whip your (and other’s) meetings into a masterclass of productivity and go from rookies to superstars.
#1 PROVIDE AN AGENDA (with any pre reads at least 48 hours in advance)
As the Organiser – this point is often omitted or forgotten. A proper agenda will cover the topics, goals or meeting outcomes, required attendees (keep the meeting as small as possible, if you think ‘it might be useful if so-and-so attended’ remember in a meeting many heads doesn’t lighten the load. Either need to be there or they don’t, or do they need to be there for the entire meeting), materials needed and a clear start and finish time.
If you are an invitee – ask for an agenda if one is not sent with the invite. You will appear interested and enthusiastic, and feel free to cherry-pick which parts of the meeting you want to attend, coming in halfway through, or leaving after the first item has been dealt with, if that is all that is required of you.
#2 BE A “MAYBE”
As the Attendee – Don’t fall into the trap of hitting “accept” automatically, know it is hard to resist but depending how far it is in the future. Accepting indicates to the organiser that you are definitely coming, and may cause friction if you decline at a later date, or simply do not show up. Equally, hitting “decline” can send the wrong message, indicating that you think the event will be boring or not worth your time. The, “maybe” button, provides you with a get-out clause if you follow it up with an explanation that you might be busy with a mandatory assignment or prior engagement.
#3 MAKE GOOD USE OF TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE
As the Organiser – Get into the habit of using conferencing tools, even when you don’t have materials to share. Good software will allow you to post your agenda as a visual reminder of the meeting activities, and will even facilitate a non-disruptive queue for asking questions.
#4 THE START TIME IS THE START TIME
As the Organiser – It can be tempting to delay the meeting to wait for latecomers, but in reality this just punishes those who actually turned up on time. I work with someone who if the meeting is at 2pm and its 2:01 wants to know if the person is coming but that meeting starts with whomever is there, in the room or conferenced in on the phone. That wasted time you can’t get back.
#5 SHUT DOWN ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TECH
This One applies to both Organiser and Attendee – Shut down all inessential apps and devices. Email, instant messenger and the internet in general are all very helpful, but in meetings they turn into a hindrance. This is especially important if you are sharing your desktop, unless you want everyone in the room to read your incoming or recent communications. On a safety point, which some use as a reason to stay connected – if the building is burning down it won’t be those apps or devices that will alert you! (This one is one to remember if you are on a training course, as well)
#6 STAY ON TOPIC
As the Organiser – Keep focused, bring the conversation back to where it needs to be and table any relevant points for another discussion. If somehow you end up taking about yours or someone else’s weekend, or recent holidays you are no longer having a meeting. This is now a chit-chat! They have their place but not in your meeting.
As the Attendee – If the organiser is not doing this, it may be time for you to chime in and prompt them to get things back on track.
#7 WATCH THAT CLOCK
As the Organiser – It is crucial that you keep your eye on the time. Good time keeping will help with focus and motivate attendees to accomplish all they set out to do.
As an attendee – If the meeting is running over, you are now free the politely get up and excuse yourself.
#8 TAKE NOTES
As the Organiser – Ensure that notes are taken throughout in a style that best suits you, which can then be summarised and distributed (ideally within 24 hours but 48 at a push). Or record the meeting so that someone else can transcribe the meeting pulling out the relevant points.
#9 BEFORE THE CLOSE
As the Organiser – Make sure that you have summarised the following: What goals were achieved? What are the next step or action points and are they clearly defined? Who owns which action points? When are the action point deadlines? All these questions must be asked before the end of the session.
Even if you only manage to achieve 1# provide an agenda, along with on or two of the other suggestions that I have made, you will notice an instant improvement in the productive outcomes of your meeting.
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