We've all been in meetings that we felt were a complete waste of time. Business meetings can be some of the most productive ways to spend your time or they can be totally pointless and accomplish nothing.
I've been in both types of meetings - those that are more productive and those where I wish I could have gotten that time in my life back. There's one company I worked for in particular where every meeting seemed like an honest waste of time. Had the boss made some key changes, he could have corrected the issues. The following tips are ways to avoid unproductive meetings and to help keep things on track.
1. Have an agenda
One of the most important things to have at meetings is an agenda. The one item that was absent from the meetings with this company I was telling you about was an agenda. Agendas really are great ways to keep meetings on track. They allow attendees to know what the objective is, who will attend, how long the meeting will last, location, things to prepare for, any needed items, etc. They can also give a time limit for items needing to be discussed. Agendas are great for taking notes and keeping records. Emailing or distributing an agenda is a great way to get attendees prepared.The free Agenda templates offered by Vertex42 gives you a format for your meetings, while allowing the flexibility to tailor it to fit your needs. Currently, there are two formats available: Business and Committee. The user can really edit the form for whatever meeting they will need. Templates are helpful as they have a structured way to serve as a reminder rather than someone needing to do it themselves from scratch. You will also be able to choose between a table or outline format.
2. Keep conversations productive
Everyone likes to have a good time and there's nothing wrong with visiting with people about other things, but if you need to stay on track and don't have a lot of time, make sure to keep the conversation productive. When I say productive, I mean focusing on the points needing to be discussed in your agenda.
3. Meeting objective or purpose
When planning your meetings consider their usefulness and purpose. Along those same lines, think about how many times you really need to have meetings. For example, if you're having meetings every single week and talk about the same things because you are having meetings too often, the result could be that the meetings become redundant and you don’t accomplish anything. Have a reason to be there. If once a month or once every quarter works, so be it.
4. Set a good time for the meeting
Timing is important and can be very helpful. If the meeting starts first thing in the morning, people might be late. If you do it too early in the afternoon, people may still be feeling the effects from lunch. Some effective times are either 9:00 or 10:00 morning or between 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon.
5. Location, Location, Location
A meeting location is very important. The size, set up, and amount of privacy are all things to consider. Pick areas that will be comfortable and encourage conversation. If you have a handful of people, a large boardroom probably isn't the best location. If you have it in an area where other activities are going on, it could be challenging to stay focused or listen to those who are talking.
6. Watch the time
If time is important to your meetings and you have, say, an hour scheduled out for it, then it could be important to set time limits on your agenda so as not to go past your allotted time. Others who have busy schedules will appreciate you doing this.
7. Goals in the meeting
In preparing for the meetings, it is important to have goals to accompany them. Why are you meeting in the first place? Why have you placed the items in the agenda. What will be accomplished at the end of the meeting? Has anything improved because of it? Are you simply having the meeting because that is company expectations or is there a real purpose to it? Keep some of these things in mind.
8. Email and other forms of communication
If it is appropriate to send items of business via email or some other means of communication, that’s another way to be efficient without needing to call a meeting. Sometimes this is a great way to contact the group or individual without going through the hassles of having a meeting. This can also take up less of everyone's time, which they will appreciate. Is it necessary to even meet in person? What if you have satellite offices? Is it necessary for employees to travel to attend where their gas would need to be reimbursed? Technology is such these days that you can often communicate effectively without even meeting in the same room.
9. Action items and minutes
If you’ve set certain goals or items to discuss by your next meeting, perhaps a section to write down action items would be appropriate. This will be a helpful reminder for those in attendance. If someone is appointed to take notes, it can be a good idea to email the minutes out to those who attended and anyone else who should know what was discussed. Even if the employees don’t read over the minutes, they can be a helpful record to reference.
10. Make it enjoyable or fun
This is something important to balance in with everything else. While it is important to make sure things are productive, it is also a good idea to have a positive environment where people feel comfortable. This can create more synergy as well as an overall more productive meeting. People are motivated when they feel cared about.
Meetings can be very helpful ways to get things done, if done appropriately. Applying these steps can help make a difference, you’ll see.
What about you? Do you have experiences for better or worse when attending business meetings? If so, please share.