Keeping Meetings in Motion
Imagine meeting nirvana: what would that look like? Meetings that began on time? Ended on time? Important items were discussed with all opinions heard? People eager to attend?
Rarely is this the story I hear from my coaching clients. They lament the long, drawn out meetings where only the boisterous are heard. They tell me how people half listen while they answer email on their laptops or smartphones while in the meeting. These are usually the same people who halfway through the meeting say, “Wait, what? Could you repeat that?”
Ugh. No wonder people get grumpy about all of the meetings jammed on their calendars.
According to a survey of U.S. professionals by salary.com, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer (dealing with office politics was a close second, according to the 2012 survey.)
To keep meetings productive and moving forward, here are some ideas for your consideration:
- Email an agenda 24 hours in advance
- Arrive five minutes early
- Start on time
- End on time
- Challenge ideas rather than people
- Don’t allow side conversations
- Encourage participation from everyone
- Request phones be turned off
- Take notes
- Pay attention
- Keep engaged in the conversation
- Email follow up tasks or information the next day
- Celebrate the small milestones to acknowledge people and progress toward goals
Other ideas include:
If a meeting is short consider conducting the meeting standing up. With everyone standing, there won’t be the temptation to drone on and on. Conversely, if the meeting will be long, provide a break. In any of my leadership trainings, I always strive to give people a break every 60-90 minutes. I encourage participants to get up and move around. A quick break refreshes people, which enables participants to keep energized and contributing in the meeting.
Be wary of the meeting hijacker. If one person is doing most of the talking, politely say, “thanks for your thoughts. I want to be sure we get everyone’s perspective on this topic.” And then ask someone else to contribute.
Avoid a meeting if the same information could be covered in a memo, email or brief report. Meetings should be used for two-way discussions, not one-way updates. You can certainly start a meeting with a brief update on the actions taken since the last meeting, but the bulk of the meeting time should be on two-way discussions.
Spend some time this month reviewing who is attending your meetings, how the meetings are structured and if they still serve a purpose. Use the tips above to help keep the meetings moving forward. Your coworkers will thank you!