Meetings. Nothing fills people with dread more than that one word. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of meetings is a bunch of guys in dark suits, and gals in slacks and blazers with shoulder pads. You know, typical board room attire from the past. The problem is, a lot of us still run meetings as we did back in the day.
Meetings are necessary. They are a tool to get ideas, plan out projects, and get everyone on the same page. Without meetings, there will be no alignment with your team. Each person in the meeting has equal value, and all should be able to speak with candor. Respect is essential.
Here are some sure-fire ways to keep your team productive even when they are in meetings.
1. INVITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Before you add someone to that meeting invite, ask yourself these two questions. “Will this meeting be as effective without this person in attendance? If we need some information from them, can we get that in a phone call or email?” You would be surprised how many people can be excluded from a meeting if those two questions are answered. If Bob from Accounting has some information that is critical to the meeting, do some prep work beforehand and get that information before the meeting. This approach works wonders.
2. HAVE AN AGENDA
No agenda. No meeting. It is as simple as that. An agenda helps everyone in attendance stay focused. Straying off-topic is the main reason meetings aren’t effective. If you have ever used Scrum for a project, you will know that the daily stand up meeting should last no more than 15 minutes. No exceptions. It’s a focused, goal-oriented meeting. All of your meetings should be as well.
Agendas should be included with the meeting invite. It can be a simple bullet-point list. Nothing too formal.
3. SET YOUR INTENTION
At the beginning of the meeting, state your intention for the meeting. “The intention of this meeting is to go over last quarter’s sales numbers and forecast next quarter’s goals.” Simple, and straight forward. You will find that meetings, where an intention is stated at the beginning, are much more productive.
4. STAY ON TOPIC
We are all human, and part of being human is connecting with people. Humans love to talk to other humans. Catching up on Susan’s vacation is great, but during a meeting is not the best place to do that. Before or after, yes. Catch up. Employees will actually be more productive.
The main point in staying on topic is to keep the main thing, the main thing. It is so easy to get down a rabbit hole of important things. But stay on topic. Just do it. You’ll thank yourself later.
When those rabbit hole topics arise, make a note of it, take it as an action item to follow up later, and get back on topic.
5. END ON TIME
If time is money, then wasting time in a meeting is wasting money. If a meeting runs long, productive time is being used for less than productive activities. No, we’re not robots, but we need to spend as little time in meetings as possible. Meetings don’t get any work done. They’re used for planning and organizing the actual work.
BONUS: START ON TIME
Sometimes people are late as a show of power. Other times people are late due to poor planning. And sometimes something else got in the way of the meeting. If all meetings start on time, you will find these reasons for being late, occur far less frequently. If a meeting starts late, it’s no wonder it ends late. By starting on time, you’re setting yourself up for success.
You can run effective meetings, or you can run the meetings everyone hates. It’s up to you.