Not another meeting? OMG!

How to make your meetings effective

Too many meetings can be frustrating can’t it?

But Professor Hall, from the University of Malmo in Sweden, says meetings should be seen as a form of therapy and provide an outlet for people at work to show off their status or to express frustration.

If you’re short on time on the other hand, being asked to join yet another meeting is the last thing you need. It can leave you feeling frustrated and can lead to matters discussed at meetings not being given the attention they deserve.

But if we stopped having all these meetings, would it create a problem rather than a solution?

Perhaps it’s not the meeting itself that’s the issue but the way the meeting is run? If it was a bit shorter and had a clear purpose, with everyone engaged, surely it could be a good thing?

Here is a checklist to help make your meetings work for everyone:-

Meeting checklist

  1. Is it necessary?

It can become automatic to set up a meeting for something if it’s what you’ve always done. But stop and ask yourself, am I looking for a discussion or deliverables? If you want to brainstorm some ideas to help reach a new audience segment, a meeting can be a good way to do this.

But if you need to know what the preferred Christmas outing option is, this can be done using a simple email survey.

Perhaps you need to convey some sensitive information to your team which wouldn’t be suitable over an email or on the phone?

If you need to let people know that you’ve changed your mind about the charity you’ll be sponsoring as a firm next year, this too can be done another way.

  1. Does it really need to be face-to-face?

Sometimes, information can’t be sent around effectively by email.

If you’re looking for input or looking to hear everyone contribute, you need to bring people together. But holding a meeting may mean people have to travel from their normal place of work. Meetings can become longer than they need to because people get side tracked into talking about something else.

Perhaps you could organise a conference call or Skype meeting instead?

You’re cutting down on unnecessary travel, you’re potentially keeping the meeting shorter and you don’t have to exclude those workers who are working from home or in another country.

  1. What do you want to achieve?

Without a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, a meeting can quickly become a waste of valuable time. People are left frustrated because they feel they’ve failed to achieve anything.

Think about what you want to achieve from having the meeting.

Maybe it’s agreeing on which apprentice to hire or which new products to add to your winter clothing range. Make sure that when you’re creating the Agenda, you’re thinking about how long the meeting needs to be and who to invite and you’ll keep the purpose of the meeting front of mind.

You shouldn’t forget this when you step into the meeting room either. Keep focused and the meeting is more likely to benefit you and the attendees.

  1. Who needs to be there?

Remember, you’re not planning a party every time to you book a meeting room.

Think about who really needs to be at the meeting. If you think about the meeting Agenda and what you want to achieve, you’ll get a rough idea who needs to attend.

Work with other members of your leadership team to create the final attendee list. If you’re planning on changing a particular accounting routine, for example, it makes sense for someone from your accounts team to be at the meeting.

Think about the opportunity cost of individuals not going to the meeting. What else would they be able to get done?

  1. How long should it be?

You’re about to set up the meeting and invite people but how long is the meeting going to be?

Sometimes, people have a habit of saying: “I’ve put it in for an hour. We won’t need that long but…” That can be frustrating for the attendees. Look at the agenda and try to work out how long it’s going to take to go through it.

The more people you have at the meeting the longer the meeting is likely to take too. Sometimes, having less time than you think you need can help you focus on the task in hand.

  1. Be prepared!

If you’re planning on showing a video, a presentation or you need to access the internet, make sure you have a room suitable. If you’re unsure about the equipment, check it before the meeting. A room which is too small or has technology which isn’t working, can result in people losing interest and checking their emails or LinkedIn profiles. Not what you want!

  1. Choose a strong chairperson

With an Agenda, a set time and a desired outcome, there is a lot riding on this time.

Make sure that if you’re leading the meeting, you guide the discussion so it doesn’t go off on a tangent. If someone is keen to talk about something which isn’t relevant or will take all the meeting time, suggest that you pick it up with them after the meeting. Make sure you remind people what the meeting is there to achieve. Send the Agenda out to all before the meeting and go through it first so everyone knows what’s expected.

  1. Take Great Minutes!

If everyone is going to spend their time in a meeting, you want it to be an effective use of that time. If there are issues raised that need more discussion, write it in the minutes. If someone has been tasked with something, add it to the minutes.

The minutes should then be written up and sent to everyone at the meeting. That way, follow up tasks and expectations are clear. If something was supposed to be done in a week’s time, you can follow it up.

The benefits of meetings

So if Professor Hall is right and meetings are a chance for us to share concerns and seek the advice we need, are they so bad? In a world where we can all be guilty of looking at our phones too much, perhaps holding a meeting is a way to talk to and get attention of colleagues which otherwise they wouldn’t get.

As long as meetings are taken properly and professionally, they can be a very useful part of your day. If you find you are spending the majority of your day every day in meetings, then you need to stand back and question why.

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