Meetings with Meaning
By Laura-Lee McKeown
You look around the table at the attendees, waiting for the meeting to start, computers, notebooks, and pens at hand. Small talk is exchanged between colleagues and you know they’re wondering what the meeting is all about, or, they’re discussing the best way to cook salmon in the dishwasher. The meeting was supposed to start at 2:00pm and it’s now 2:10pm. The person that called the meeting is standing off to the side, urgently whispering into a cell phone. All you can think about is that deadline looming at the end of the day and that this isn’t helping things.
Many of us attend numerous meetings each week, with some employees reporting that they spend between 5-8 hours each week in meetings, 60% of which are unproductive. Get into the executive boardroom, and those folks spend over 20 hours per week in meetings. Given that it takes approximately 20-25 minutes to get your head back into whatever you were doing before the meeting, it’s no wonder that timelines slip and that the work day (that part when you actually DO work) gets longer. So how do you actually conduct meetings that mean something; that move business forward?
- Before calling a meeting, determine if it’s necessary
- Would another format (phone call, Google Hangouts) work even better?
- Is the subject matter complex, or is it something quick and simple?
- Can you determine the outcome?
- Is the subject matter time-sensitive?
- Is this for brainstorming or to collect deliverables?
- Determine who needs to attend
- Is the information complex or more than just one person can handle?
- Do you need a decision maker or approval from someone senior?
- Who could be impacted by the meeting’s results?
- Who needs to deliver relevant information or updates?
- Prepare an agenda
- Start with the outcome or goal of the meeting.
- Share the agenda before the meeting so everyone has time to review and prepare.
- Discuss the outcomes or goals of the meeting verbally at the beginning of the meeting.
- If you don’t have an agreement on that outcome or goal you might need to start again with #1. Is the meeting necessary?
- Keep it moving
- Your dog/baby/crazy weekend stories - discuss at the end of, or after the meeting.
- If side conversations break out, stop and ask for people’s attention.
- Don’t let people go off on a tangent; remind them of the outcome or goal. Stick to the agenda.
- Address side issues by suggesting they be “parked” and dealt with at a later time, whether in person or by email.When decisions are made, make sure they are clearly known and understood - who is responsible? What are the deadlines?
- This is a document summarizing the meeting. It will contain action items/tasks, decisions, due dates for completion, and names of people who are responsible for deliverables. The document should not include every spoken word.
- Deliver the reviewed meeting minutes ASAP (ideal delivery would be 24 hours of the meeting) to attendees while the subject matter is still front-of-mind. Time lapses cause details to be missed or forgotten.
Following these 5 simple principles will set a strong foundation for your meetings - those required to attend will come to know that your meetings are efficient, productive, and beneficial. Instilling these as the expectations for all meetings within your organization will mean time saved, morale boosted, and skyrocketing productivity!