Yuk! It’s meeting time.
Don’t worry you’re not alone. A recent survey by the Harvard Business Review revealed that 92% of meeting participants in corporate America view meetings as a supreme waste of time! Frank Robinson, CEO of Robison Helicopter says, “I’ve always felt that meetings are one of the most wasteful things in industry. We avoid having meetings as much as possible. Most decisions don’t have to have a meeting.” I’m not sure I would agree with this but I certainly understand WHY many take this position when asked about meetings. A meeting should be used to carry out communications, planning, setting policy, making decisions, or motivating a team. The most effective meetings are well planned and executed. They should serve to bring forth the best in all team members – the best ideas, the best decisions, and the best follow-up. Here’s some tips on how to make your meetings more valuable, effective and hopefully a pleasure for all that attend: 1. Always send an agenda to all the participants in advance. The agenda presented at the start of a meeting just doesn’t cut it. Attendees can not prepare for a meeting if they don’t know the content and purpose of a meeting ahead of time. If no agenda exists ahead of time it is highly possible that there is no plan for the meeting. 2. Always begin the meeting with a statement of the goal and get everyone’s agreement. End the meeting with a quick review of the action items that have been established and who will do what and when it will be accomplished. 3. Never hold a meeting to learn the “status” of various initiatives. This is accomplished far more effectively by reports from team members. This can be done via email, written memos or even by using voice mail. When 5, 10 or 20 people are gathered together at a meeting to hear the reports of others, very little is being accomplished. 4. Brainstorming ideas is a good use of a meeting as long as there is a plan so that attendees can prepare their ideas in advance. Those ideas can then be collected quickly and efficiently at the meeting. However, attempting to brainstorm the content of a document at a meeting is a terrible waste of time. If a group must all agree on the contents of a document I recommend providing a draft to participants several days in advance, collecting feedback and doing a summary presentation of the collaborated draft to the group. 5. Create a system so that all the participants can contribute. There’s nothing worse than having just one or two members dominate the meeting while others passively stand by just listening. Often times those who speak the least have the best ideas or are fearful of disagreeing with the most vocal participants. Many times I have found that it is these very participants who will raise the most critical issues that need to be resolved. 6. If you are a facilitator of a meeting – BE PREPARED or cancel the meeting, know the goals for the meeting in advance, have a start and a stop time and stick to it and be prepared to facilitate any conflict which, by-the-way is a good thing. Having constructive conflict within a meeting is moth healthy and necessary to creating the most valuable and cost effective solutions. I hope this helps at your next meeting. Also I’d love to hear some meeting success or horror stories. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.