So you didn’t take my advice in Part 1 and stop having meetings, and you’re still searching for ways to fix your meetings.
In Part 1 of this series we covered how to plan a meeting and structure it purposefully to actually accomplish something.
Part 2 will cover attendance at meetings and points on procedure and conduct.
I swear, for everyone who hates meetings there’s a needy attention hog who just loves them because they have a captive audience who they can chat at for an hour. Kick that person out of your meetings!
In seriousness, be very selective of who gets to attend, the more people, the more people with opinions and taking up time talking, the more time the meeting will take. To start, allow only one person per section. This will not only be more efficient in your meeting, it will also force communication within the section. So, no, Bob can’t bring Jeff who covered for him the past week, Bob needs to talk to Jeff and get up to speed over what happened over the past week then come to the meeting. Or Jeff can come to the meeting and then finalize his handover with Bob covering what happened over the past week.
People don’t need to bring their assistants and second in commands to meetings unless there’s a valid reason for them to be there, and if they are there as a team, they only get one voice, as a team.
So sit down with the list of people who attend your meetings right now, write out why they attend, what they bring to to the table in terms of information or knowledge and what they take away. Do they actually need to be there? If they do, integrate them into the seating plan, and as you run the meeting, focus on their purpose at the meeting.
This will lead you into the next section, which is points on the procedure of the meeting.
If people are necessary in a meeting they need to come there ready to work. They need something to write on or with. THEIR PHONE NOTIFICATIONS NEED TO BE TURNED OFF. In fact, unless your staff use their phones to take notes or record, keep them out of the meeting room. I’m pretty hardline on this. If you have someone so critical to operations in your organization they can’t be away from their phone for an hour you need a better way to do your operations. If someone is so bored in a meeting they need to do other work on their phone then they don’t even need to be there.
For internal meetings, when the meeting is ready to start everyone should be in the meeting room, seated and ready to start. It’s disruptive for people to show up whenever, and takes time to start over 3 times for stragglers. Start barring the door when the meeting is supposed to start and making anyone who was late follow up to get the information on their own time.
One of the more effective way I’ve seen meetings working is by having the boss or client do opening remarks to set the purpose for the meeting and frame the question or provide goals and direction for the week; working around the table different sections provide updates, outline their plans and ask questions as required; the boss or client has their staff or advisers add any parameters, constraints or restraints to what has been discussed or provide any technical or administrative data; the meeting is then closed by the boss or client by reviewing decision points and deliverables until the next check in point.
I also really like the follow-up email post-meeting, or information entered into a collaborative workspace. Anything that quickly recaps key decision points and deliverables or goals and metrics which came out of the meeting or key direction given for the conduct of the week or project.
As you move around your meeting room, you have attendees who have a purpose in being there and you know the purpose of the meeting. This will allow you to sum up people who are getting off topic or to tell people to address certain issues in another forum if it doesn’t fit the purpose of your meeting.
Here you should have decided how you want to run your meeting. Who does opening remarks? Who talks next? What information do you need to cover first? Who follows who and what topics get covered to provide information to others. Will there be questions? And this is also where your seating plan is key to keep you on track, once you have it set up your meeting should flow naturally.
That concludes Part 2 of Here’s How to Stop Wasting Time in Meetings
See Part 1 covering Purpose and Orientation here.
Stay tuned for Part 3 – Materials, note-taking and presentations