Imagine you’ve worked on a meeting for days and it has just ended. Chairs scrape noisily as the meeting disperses and people shuffle out of the conference room. Pleased with your performance, you bend to the laptop to disconnect it and close your presentation. People file past you, murmuring, and you snatch a couple of lines of conversation:
“Waste of time…” “…Could have been an email”.
Oh. What on earth went wrong?! There could be many reasons but people usually think a meeting was unnecessary or even a waste of time when it was not succinct, valuable and focussed. The good news is that if you follow our seven top tips, nobody is ever likely to say “could have been an email” ever again!
If you don’t know what your meeting wants to accomplish, then neither will the attendees. It is your responsibility to deliver clear aims and objectives, so take plenty of time to supply attendees with a fantastic purpose and agenda. If these are clear, you should get clear outcomes from the meeting, meaning that a little extra time planning now will pay off later!
Fewer is More
Who needs to be in your meeting? Not who wants to be, needs to be. Despite the average manager spending between 50-75% of their time in meetings, only 58% of those meetings result in any action! This is often because attendees are unable to contribute, meaning that the meeting fails to meet its objectives. So, if you’re trying to solve a problem, only invite those people who can contribute to the solution.
Keep the Pace
I’ve already mentioned the importance of supplying attendees with a well thought out agenda. Obviously, it’s also key that you stick to it! Make attendees aware of the time available for each item and that these timings are going to be stuck to. You can also put the agenda on a screen or whiteboard to ensure that everyone maintains focus.
Sharing means Chairing
US Senator Strom Thurmond allegedly holds the record for the world’s longest uninterrupted speech, at twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes. If it feels like you’ve had somebody speak for this long in a meeting you’ve attended, that meeting probably wasn’t well chaired!
As we saw in stage two, only people who can contribute should be attending your meeting, and this means that you want to hear everyone’s contribution. Accordingly, if you notice somebody monopolising conversation, be prepared to suggest that it would be worthwhile hearing other people’s opinions too.
Ban the Tech!
Your colleagues are probably lying to you. Whilst they may claim that their fascination with their laptop or smartphone is directly related to the meeting, it probably isn’t. After all, both Android and Iphone users have access to over 2,000,000 apps… Not many of them relating to your meeting!
More importantly, the previous steps will have produced a meeting which is succinct and on-topic: this means attendees shouldn’t have time to multitask or become distracted by technology! As we said before, keeping to the agenda is key.
Far too much time in meetings is wasted either waiting for or accommodating the arrival of latecomers. Whilst some lateness is legitimate, the interruption shows a lack of respect for other attendees and damages their attentiveness and productivity.
Accordingly, start and end your meeting promptly. Doing this consistently will incentivise latecomers to be more punctual and definitely reflects well on you! I know several managers who are renowned for their punctuality and effective time management and are well respected for it.
Lead by Following (Up!)
With work environments becoming ever busier and more hectic, it is important to maintain the momentum which a good meeting will have generated. Why not email the participants? A brief email summarising the meeting’s minutes and actions will ensure everyone understands their ongoing responsibilities and stays on track.
Are the seven points helpful? Are there any you find difficult? Get in touch with Bray Leino Learning and share your opinion!
Stephanie Evans, Coaching and Mentoring Consultant, Bray Leino Learning
Want more hints and tips about effective meetings? Why not check out my Webinar 'The Secrets to Effective Meetings'. To find out more about this and other great meeting resources, click here.
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