Author: Moira Dunne. Moira is a management and training consultant and the founder of BeProductive.ie
We all complain that we spend too much time in meetings. It is not so much the number of meetings that frustrates us but the feeling that we are losing so many hours out of our week. Also the time spent at meetings often feels wasted if discussions go on too long and little is achieved.
So how can you revamp the meetings within your business so that people feel their time is spent productively? In this article I will outline a simple process that will help you maximising effectiveness and get you thinking about the true purpose of your meetings.
But first it is useful to try to reduce or even eliminate some of the meetings in your schedule.
Do I Really Need This Meeting?
Meetings can be a habit. We get used to the frequency of certain meetings and automatically keep going. We sometimes schedule meetings without questioning if there is a better solution. So we need to challenge ourselves and start asking some questions
1. Meetings You Organise
- What problem needs to be solved?
- Who do I need to involve?
- Do we need a real-time discussion?
- Do we need to meet face-to-face
2. Meetings You Attend
- Why am I invited?
- Can I send a delegate?
- Can I send an update?
- Can I attend for the relevant section only?
Productive Meeting Process
We tend to think of meetings as simply the time we sit in the meeting room. But effective, efficient and productive meetings only happen if effort is put in before, during and after. It’s about focus and clear objectives. This may require a little work to establish a new approach but before long it becomes routine and time will be saved on the meeting itself and the follow up.
1. Meeting Preparation
It is important that the organiser plans the meeting carefully. Invite essential people who need to contribute to the discussion and make decisions. Others may need to attend to observe or gain information. But everyone should be there for a reason.
Sort out or delegate all the logistics: time, place, equipment, meeting invitations, etc. Consider if any attendees need to join remotely. Create and circulate a clear, simple agenda that sets the expectations for: 1) the purpose of the meeting, 2) the topics to be covered and 3) the desired outcomes. It is usually beneficial to also get input from the attendees.
2. Meeting Management
During the meeting your role is to make sure the meeting achieves its objective. This is not easy! It requires facilitation skills that not everyone possesses. This is why many meetings go off track.
You need to make sure that:
- people are staying on track during discussions
- each topic gets the allotted time
- decisions are being made
- actions are captured
- everyone is participating
- you are not dominating the discussion
Assign the facilitation role to someone else if you need to be very involved in discussions and decisions. It is also a good idea to delegate the task of capturing the actions and decisions.
3. Meeting Follow Up
After the meeting, ensure that the decisions and actions are finalised and circulated quickly. Assign people and due dates to the actions. Use an Action Log which can be maintained and updated as each meeting occurs.
The Role of the Attendees
The key role of any meeting attendee is to: 1) prepare before the meeting, 2) participate and stay on track during the meeting and 3) complete their actions after the meeting.
Preparation is important even if you only spend 5 minutes reading the agenda before the meeting begins. This allows you to refocus from your previous work and tune into the topics up for discussion. It helps you plan some questions and valuable discussion points. It allows you clarify what you want to get out of the meeting.
Participants can also help meeting effectiveness by giving feedback during and after meetings on what works well and what be improved, as appropriate.
Here is a Summary Checklist for Productive Meetings:
- Invite those with a role to play (participate, learn, inform)
- Ask for input on agenda topics
- Circulate the agenda with any pre-reading or reference documents
- Set the meeting expectations
- Agree ground rules *
- Nominate a note-taker
- Encourage participation from all
- Don’t dominate the discussion
- Keep on track, park long discussions
- Ensure key decisions and actions are recorded
- Recap to gain commitment & assign actions
- Review what worked well /what didn’t
- Thanks people for their time and contribution
* The ground rules can be as simple as switching off phones or not bringing laptops to the meeting.
- Circulate actions
- Follow up on any parked discussions
- Resolve any issues that emerged
- Contribute to the agenda, if appropriate
- Prepare beforehand
- Be clear of the meeting expectations
- Participate in discussions and decisions
- Aim to stay on track
- Agree to relevant actions
- Give feedback if required
- Complete agreed actions
We all need to work on our meeting skills. But a few well planned changes can increase your chance of productive meetings with better engagement, outcomes and results. If you have any of your own effective meeting tips please add to the comments below.
For more information or details about our Workplace Productivity workshops please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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