We’ve all experienced meetings where our minds drift and we wonder why on earth we are wasting our time. Some meetings certainly are unproductive and a waste of time. However, business meetings are an essential way to communicate and necessary for making effective decisions.
Your co-workers won’t appreciate having to attend meandering, pointless meetings. Many people feel that meetings are the biggest time waster at work. Here are six must-know tips on how to conduct a productive meeting.
Is your meeting intended to generate new ideas, make decisions or gather information? Perhaps it’s a combination of all three? If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you can be pretty sure it won’t happen.
If you set a specific goal for a meeting, people are better prepared. Perhaps the goal of the meeting is to brainstorm new project ideas. If attendees have an agenda, they can come up with ideas prior to the meeting so that no time is wasted when the meeting begins.
Serious decisions may require pre-wiring. In essence, this involves communicating one-on-one with people before the meeting about a decision. When this is done, the meeting has more chance of being successful.
A vague intention to cover a certain topic in a meeting does not produce effective results. You need to prepare a specific agenda for a meeting and make sure it is in the hands of the people who will attend at least the day before. Everyone attending a meeting should have a clear idea of why they are gathered and what needs to be accomplished.
Make sure that your agenda includes who will attend, the time and location, a list of the topics to be covered and a brief description of the objectives of the meeting. Any background information attendees need to know may also be included.
If you have a weekly meeting to discuss the status of a project, preparing a template for an agenda that allows you to fill in the blanks each week helps to save time.
You need to carefully consider who to invite to a meeting. The people in the room can make or break the meeting. You need to invite those who will help you to achieve your objectives. Limit the number of attendees as far as possible because it’s more difficult to pick up on body language if the room is full and the more people there are, the less pressure they feel to participate.
David May of ResumesPlanet suggests using the well-known 2/3 rule. He says “only those affected by at least two out of three items on the agenda should be invited to attend a business meeting. When people don’t think the topic is relevant to them and don’t see how they can assist, they are sure to feel they are wasting time.”
When no-one is conscious of the time, it is easy to go on for too long and become unfocused. If you are leading a meeting, you should try to start and finish on time. If you regularly hold meetings, people will know you start and end promptly and are more likely to attend your meetings.
You want to make every second count, and this is where your agenda comes in handy. You can prioritize important topics and allow a specific time for each topic. You could put the agenda up on a whiteboard for others to see to help keep attendees focused.
It’s very likely that 30 minutes into a meeting, attention is not as sharp as it was at the beginning. The longer meetings drag on, the fewer people pay attention. Meetings should not go on for longer than an hour if you help it.
This does not mean being so inflexible that you ignore interesting points that are raised if they do not relate to the agenda. A good way to handle this is to acknowledge the input and suggest that it will be included in the meeting notes and explored at another time.
It’s up to you to find a way to deal with guiding the meeting back to the assigned topic, allowing each person the chance to participate and being conscious of one person talking more than his or her fair share. You also need to make sure that people don’t talk over each other and cover the same points.
Keeping a meeting focused takes some skill, and it may help to learn some fundamental communication skills through online classes. VirtualSpeech offers online classes where you can practice these skills in immersive virtual reality. You can use real-time voice analysis and tracking technology to identify areas that need improving.
You will get feedback on issues such as your speaking pace and eye contact. These factors could make a significant difference in how you present your ideas and keep a corporate meeting focused. You will also learn to listen more effectively.
Another important aspect to consider is whether to get attendees to turn off or silence all electronic devices. The reality is that people who bring electronic devices into the room with them could be emailing and playing games instead of focusing on the meeting or making contributions. Many people attending meetings want to make notes on their tablets or mobile phones, but this task could be allocated to one person.
If you plan to send out summaries or minutes of the meeting, you should mention this at the start of the meeting. Emailing a memo documenting responsibilities given, tasks delegated and deadlines assigned keeps everyone on the same page and allows for accountability.
If you’ve come to the end of a meeting without having some actionable next steps, the meeting was most likely a waste of time. If you’ve managed to maintain a clear focus, you should have a concrete plan of action and be able to follow up on it.
Warren’s lifestyle is full of hiking adventures. When he’s not busy with his guitar or enjoying the sunny day outside, he excels at blogging skills and leaps through social media. You can meet him on Twitter and Facebook.