You’re extremely busy but have just been asked to drop everything to attend a required meeting. When you arrive in a timely manner, only half the participants are present. Worse yet, the first 15 minutes of the meeting are taken up with small talk about someone’s recent win on the golf course When the meeting does start, there is no agenda, but there is a long-winded monologue, essentially summarizing a document you’ve already read. Two hours later you leave and realize that you have not only learned nothing new and were never asked for your opinion but also wasted two hours when you could have been doing something else. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most American workers find most meetings to be a waste of time. Fortunately, managing meetings is something nearly all managers and leaders could do if they simply adopted just a few guidelines.
Why Bad Meetings Waste Time and Money
Camille Preston, the founder, and CEO of AIM Leadership, has spent two decades working as an executive coach. As someone committed to helping others achieve more with less–less time, money and energy–Preston is highly attuned to the problem of what she calls, “meeting hell.” In a recent article in Forbes, she emphasized, “Beyond the fact that meetings frequently do not yield the results they should yield, there is evidence that setting up meetings is also a time-consuming process — one that few of us know how to manage effectively. By one estimate, 40% of employees spend 30 minutes a day just searching for meeting space. Factor in other meeting-related tasks (e.g., setting up media equipment, ordering fresh coffee, water and snacks and ensuring everyone knows where the meeting is taking place) and the drain of meetings on one’s staff and resources is something that we simply can’t afford to ignore.”
ASSIST: Managing Meetings With Impact
Hosting effective meetings doesn’t need to be difficult. All you need to get started is an agenda, a watch, a decent sense of timing, and an appreciation of what types of content do and do not belong in a meeting.
Agenda: If you don’t have an agenda, don’t call a meeting. If you’re invited to a meeting and don’t get an agenda at least 24 hours in advance, don’t attend.
Start on time: It’s simple but, in fact, this is a guideline that few managers or leaders follow or enforce. The reality is, however, that millions of dollars are wasted every year as a result of meetings failing to start on time. After all, when meetings don’t start on time, an organization’s productivity necessarily suffers.
Save any readings or viewings for pre-work or post-work: While many people think meetings are for sharing long PowerPoint presentations, documents, and videos, in actual fact, if something can be viewed or read outside the meeting room, it should be. Otherwise, you’re simply wasting valuable time. Also, bear in mind that since people read and consume information at different rates, presenting documents, slides, or videos in a meeting is rarely as effective as sharing the same materials before or after a meeting takes place.
Insist on full attention: In a world full of distractions, this can be difficult, but at the end of the day, the only way to make the most of meetings is to demand everyone’s full attention. If this means asking everyone to check their phone, computer, or tablet at the door, do it. When everyone is unwired, focus surges, and this results in shorter and more productive meetings.
Stand-up: At least some people in the business world advocate stand-up meetings. If you think this is about bringing humor to your meetings, think again. Stand-up meetings are just that: meetings that are held standing up. They are more effective because people really do get down to business more quickly when chairs aren’t provided!
Terminate the meeting on time: While it can be tempting to linger, don’t drag things out. Everyone has something else to do and somewhere else to be. End the meeting on time whether or not you’ve accomplished your goals.
To learn more about how to host effective meetings, explore eLeaP’s library of Leadership and Management courses.