Are Meetings Wasting Your Time?


All too often we hear complaints from our clients regarding their calendars and the extensive number of meetings they have to attend. The biggest complaint: not only do these meetings take up time, but they waste time, too, because they are not run effectively and they seldom produce outcomes that people take action on or are held accountable for. The result: you come together the next week and talk about the same things! Can you relate? If the answer is yes, read below for four simple steps that will help you prepare for and lead more effective and productive meetings.

Step 1: Define and Prepare
People call a meeting to discuss something without really considering why the meeting is being held in the first place and what a good outcome would be (i.e., a good use of people’s time).
- To help clarify your objective, simply complete this sentence: At the end of this meeting, the team will.... With the end result clearly defined, you can then decide who to invite.
- When considering who to invite, ask yourself: “who needs to be at this meeting for it to be a success?” Then include only those who play a critical role in the meeting’s objective and overall success.
- Lastly, you need to create the agenda. The agenda is your roadmap for the meeting. To create an effective agenda consider (a) priorities (what must be covered), (b) results (what needs to be accomplished) and (c) how much time do we need to spend on each topic and what is the best order or sequence.

Step 2: Schedule and Inform
As the leader of the meeting, you must handle the logistics and inform those you wish to invite about the meeting’s purpose, date, time, location and preparation required. When you inform people about the meeting, be sure to also:
- Attach the agenda and solicit feedback.
- Make any specific requests of participants regarding preparation.
- Circulate background material and lengthy documents at least a week before the meeting date, so people can read through them, prior to the meeting.

Step 3: Lead and Control
Once in the meeting, it is your role to lead the group. Remember these key meeting leader actions:
- At the end of each agenda item, quickly summarize what was said and ask people to confirm that it was a fair summary.
- Encourage group discussion to get all points of view and ideas. If certain people are dominating the conversation, make a point of asking others for their ideas.
- Make a list of all tasks that are generated at the meeting. Make a note of who is assigned to do what and by when.
- At the close of the meeting, summarize next steps and inform everyone that you will be sending out a meeting summary.

Step 4: Summarize and Record
The meeting summary is a crucial part of effective meetings that often gets ignored. Concise minutes are essential to ensuring that you make progress in your meetings and assist in holding everyone accountable. At the very least, your minutes should:
- List the key issues discussed and major points raised, as well as decisions or actions committed to be accomplished (include by whom and by when).
- Be typed up and sent out within 2-3 days of the meeting.

Running effective meetings isn’t brain surgery, but it does take time and effort on the leader’s part. Following these four steps will help ensure that your meetings don’t waste your time or others’ time.

What have you done to make sure your meetings are productive? Let us know. Likewise, let us know if you try out these four steps and if they work (or don’t) for you.

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Ignite Wednesday, July 28, 2010 @ 12:31 PM   0 Comments

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