Most people agree that meetings can be a colossal waste of time. And it’s not surprising when most meetings start off with all the right intentions to address important issues only to transition into venting sessions taking everything off course into never-never land. Or worse, meeting participants get stuck on one topic and bludgeon it relentlessly until someone concludes that the meeting has dragged on too long and subsequently suggests another meeting to continue the pain.
Add to this that meetings are incredibly expensive. If you take the average hourly rate of each person in the room and multiply it by the time spent in a meeting, (even for those short half-hour meets), the cost would be enough to choke a giraffe.
If you’re nodding your head, consider implementing the following practices below to make future meetings efficient and productive:
1) Create an agenda. This is the most obvious, yet the most often overlooked meeting practice. How many meetings are scheduled through an email invite to all participants with a short note telling them what will be discussed? How many of these emails are accompanied with an agenda describing what will be discussed, for how long, and when the meeting will end? Not enough. Make sure all meetings are accompanied by an agenda.
2) Ask group members to assist in creating the agenda. This is one of the best ways to get the most insight and participation from your team members in meetings. When you ask your employees to help you create the meeting agenda, you are telling them that you are interested in, and value their opinions and intelligence. There is no better way to encourage people to share what’s on their mind.
3) Let everyone know that cell phones, laptops and tablets are not allowed in the meeting. This is an issue of respect. The mere ringing of a phone, buzz of a text, chime of an incoming email or vibration of an iPhone can immediately break concentration, throw speakers off-center and irritate everyone in the room.
4) Appoint one person to take notes (meeting minutes). Ensure that all highlights are covered, expectations are set, timelines are documented and next steps are clearly established. Document who does what, and by when.
5) As a manager, you should not be the one who leads the meeting. Of course, this goes against all conventional reason and logic, but meetings are much more effective if the group appoints their own leader. And the reason is simple…meeting participants are much more likely to contribute and voice their feelings and opinions if the meeting is led by one of their peers. And more importantly, when people in a meeting see their manager or immediate boss assume the role of participant vs. boss, s/he becomes less threatening and more approachable.
As you may know, meetings can either be huge sponges of time and money, or they can be prime opportunities to gather knowledge and insight to solve problems and increase productivity. It’s not uncommon for some employees to waste more than half their weeks in meetings when their time should be spent doing what they were hired to do.
These are five meeting practices you can implement today. If you’re interested in more practices and techniques to get the most out of meetings, consider enrolling in leadership training. After all, meetings are both inevitable and necessary. But, think of how much more productive your employees would be if you could give them even as little as ten percent of their time back.