How many meetings have you had this week? How much time did these consume? And more importantly, how much did the meeting actually accomplish?
Chances are, most of those ‘brainstorming sessions’ and ‘weekly reports’ did nothing more than feed endless debates and pass information you already knew (or didn’t need). The problem? Most meetings have the wrong agenda, the wrong attendees, and the wrong structure! Here are tips on how to avoid those problems, and get more done in less time!
1. Define the purpose of the meeting.
Do you merely want to inform or update people? Can this information be cascaded through email? Call a meeting only if you need specific, concrete and immediate action. That can include securing approval on a project, or getting different department representatives to explain an unusual dip in the third quarter sales.
2. Decide who should attend the meeting.
You should only include people who have to discuss an item that’s in the meeting agenda, or whose specific views are needed to make an important decision.
Don’t invite people just because they need to know what’s going on. Just send them the minutes of the meeting. And don’t require people to stay for the entire meeting if they’re only concerned with one or two items. Fix the agenda so that they can leave at the end of their segment.
3. Send the meeting agenda ahead of time.
The agenda should be specific and help participants prepare ahead of time. It should include not just the date and venue of the meeting, but a list of attendees, how long it will last, the venue, and the goal. It should also instruct people on the kind of information they need to have so they can contribute to the discussion.
4. Send briefing sheets or documents before the meeting.
Usually half the meeting is spent looking at Power point presentations. Save everyone’s time by sending those documents ahead. Not only do participants have a chance to review the information and properly absorb it, they can also come to the meeting with ideas and strategies.
5. Find the right time and venue.
Avoid scheduling meetings on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. Most people are either busy planning the rest of the week, or are mentally exhausted and already imagining their weekend.
As for the venue, it’s best to get a separate room so that people aren’t distracted by phone calls or the noise drifting in from the corridor. If that’s not possible, position the table and chairs so that the attendees face each other, not the rest of the busy room.
6. Summarize the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, reiterate the agenda and summarize the points that have been raised. Clarify if you got the facts right, and then decide—as a team—if you have been able to accomplish the goal of the meeting. If not, give people ‘homework.’ Was there missing information? Who should look for it? Are the ideas unworkable? Who should fine tune them? Give everyone deadlines. ‘Please email your recommendations by Friday, 10:00 a.m.’
7. Send everyone a copy of the minutes of the meeting.
This documents any agreements, reminds everyone of the homework/action plan, and loops in other people who did not attend but may be directly concerned by the outcome of the meeting.