Here are some key tips for turning bad meetings into great ones:
- Have a clear purpose – Know why you are meeting in the first place. Will an important decision be made? Are you launching a new initiative? Is a policy up for review? Will training be offered? Having a purpose does several things. It determines who should attend and who should not. It controls the agenda and time allocation. It helps keep the discussion on track.
- Establish ground rules – Few meetings have basic rules for attendance, participation, or decision-making. This leaves everything open for confusion and potential abuse. A talkative colleague can’t be challenged as easily when there are no clear rules about engagement. For ground rules to work they must always be enforced.
- Send information to attendees ahead of time – Nothing saves more time than being prepared. If participants can review what will be covered, the discussion will be more productive and decisions can be reached more quickly.
- Start and end on time – Maintaining discipline with this simple guideline will keep those who are perpetually late from derailing the agenda. Respecting schedules by ending on time, allows everyone to get back to their work or off to another meeting if needed.
- Engage everyone – Find ways to get people involved, even the quiet participants. This can be accomplished by planning smaller group discussions or asking everyone to write down ideas about a challenging topic. Scheduling brainstorming or getting people out of their seats can spark creativity and encourage problem-solving.
- Summarize decisions and what’s next – Every meeting should end with a quick review of what was decided and who accepted responsibility for execution. A brief email to those involved can add an extra layer of accountability.
- Hold each other accountable for results – Begin every meeting by hearing reports from those who accepted responsibility for projects or decisions made at the previous meeting. Even if things have gone wrong everyone will know where the project stands. Without this simple step, it’s easy for people to procrastinate or drop the ball completely.
- Decide if a meeting is even necessary – Many times a discussion or decision can be facilitated just as easily with email or quick text messages. Monthly reports can be emailed to employees for review. No one wants to hear others review what they could have read on their own.
The cost for wasted meeting time is enormous – $37 billion per year is one statistic (meetingking.com). Middle managers can spend up to 35% of their time in meetings. For senior executives, the number jumps to 50%. Try putting some dollars to those figures.
I have a reputation with colleagues and clients for running great meetings. Perhaps it’s because I hate them so much. That’s one good reason for using these meeting tips. If I must attend or run meetings, they may as well be good ones.