If you attend meetings at all regularly, the chances are that you want to make them more productive.
My personal dread is the huge meeting, with over a dozen participants. Typically, all of them want to justify their presence and have something to say. But meetings can certainly be made more productive.
Indeed, more than a third of Americans recently polled consider meetings to be “a complete waste of time”, according to California’s Meeting Solutions.
Here are my top ten tips to make meetings more productive:
1. Ask yourself if your meeting is really necessary or if there is a better way to achieve what you want. If it isn’t necessary, don’t call one. Only mediocre managers think having meetings all the time is a sign of good management; it’s not, especially when you consider how much they cost in man-hours. Meetings should only be held when they’re vital.
This is particularly true for the so-called brainstorming meeting, by the way. As entrepreneur Seth Godin says: “Do you often find ideas that change everything in a windowless conference room, with bottled water on the side table and a circle of critics and sceptics wearing suits looking at you as the clock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated for this meeting? If not, then why do you keep looking for them there?”
2. Give participants plenty of notice and send them an agenda in advance. Ask everyone to bring one creative suggestion to the meeting. Send a gentle reminder about the meeting the day before.
3. Chair the meeting. A good chairperson will not only keep order and ensure the relevance of the points made, he or she will also involve everyone in the discussion.
4. Keep it short – and stick to the timescale agreed. Many people feel that no meeting should take longer than 45 minutes. If you schedule a meeting for 3 hours, the agenda will expand to fill that length of time.
5. Invite only those people who need to be there. The attendees can always brief their reports afterwards.
6. Start on time. Don’t penalise the punctual by having to wait for the unpunctual.
7. Focus on action. Every item on the agenda should be resolved, a person or group assigned to handle the action identified, and a timescale allotted to that action. Or, to put it more succinctly, every item should conclude with “Who does what by when”.
8. No technology. Mobile phones, laptops, BlackBerries and all such paraphernalia should be turned off, or better still, banned from the meeting. If people are answering their emails in the meeting, they’re not focusing on the discussion.
9. No leavers. No one should leave the meeting early unless absolutely essential. It’s distracting and offputting to the others – especially if it’s only to answer a mobile phone call.
10. No chairs. It sounds radical, but holding meetings standing up does wonders for cutting out the waffle and focusing on what’s really essential.
David Vickery writes on a wide range of business-related topics.
How productive are your meetings? Share your thoughts in the comments box below…