Have you ever gone to a meeting, and afterwards felt like it was pointless? If you have, you’re not alone! In fact, there’s a good chance that the meeting was not prepared properly. Without a clear goal and agenda, meetings can easily go off track and ultimately be an ineffective use of time.
In his article, “How to Create Meetings that Really Matter”, Jones Loflin gives seven techniques to help make meetings more meaningful and productive.
How to Create Meetings that Really Matter
By Jones Loflin
Innovative Yet Practical Solutions
“We need more meetings” is something I rarely hear when working with employees in an organization. In fact, “ineffective meetings” is one of the top three “time bandits” listed by people in many of my time management training sessions.
Why are so many meetings seen as a waste of time? I think it’s because the person leading the meeting forgets to ask one simple question when planning it: What do I want the group to do as a result of this meeting? Failing to answer that question leads to a litany of meeting missteps and underwhelms those who are in attendance. If you’re ready to create meetings that actually move yourself and your team forward, try these seven techniques:
Define the work to be done.
As Liane Davey writes in her HBR article about meetings, “Exclude topics where one person has clear accountability and can proceed without input. Instead, focus on the items where the team’s input will change the trajectory of the work.” What is the actionable benefit to everyone who will attend the meeting? If you can’t determine one, either cancel the meeting, or reduce the attendees to those who will have an actionable benefit.
Develop a meaningful agenda.
At a minimum, an agenda should include three things:
- Participants for the meeting
- Agenda items prioritized by potential actionable benefit to the largest number of attendees
- Time allotment for each agenda item
Submit it in advance of the meeting so attendees can prepare for optimum participation. For more about creating effective agendas, check out the free agenda template download from the fantastic team at Mind Tools.
Increase expectations BEFORE the meeting.
Be clear about what insights or information you want them to have ready at the meeting. Don’t assume they already know. If the purpose of the meeting is to solve a problem, request that they come with a workable solution. Spell out what you want them to be able to do at the meeting so you don’t waste valuable meeting time explaining it to them.
Remember Parkinson’s Law Of Triviality
Formulated by Cyril Northcoate Parkinson, this law states that there is a human tendency to devote a great deal of time to unimportant details while crucial matters go unattended. Prior to your meeting, identify what the crucial matters are for each agenda item or have the participants identify them before discussion. Also consider sharing this law with meeting participants prior to the start of any meeting.
Facilitate for full participation.
You know the people who tend to skew the focus of a meeting topic. Be prepared to limit their impact by asking questions like, “Help me understand how that relates to this topic?” or “In order to stay on track with this topic, could we address that topic later?” Also think about how to get the silent attendees to speak up. Consider contacting them prior to the meeting and letting them know you’d like for them to give their insights about a particular topic.
Limit their desire to use technology.
Banning technology so you can make people suffer through a poorly executed meeting is never a good idea. If you use the five steps outlined above, you’ve already taken a positive step toward reducing people’s desire to check email or use their electronic device. If there are agenda items that require them to use their device (i.e. scheduling events or more meetings), move them to later in the meeting. Once they are using their device, it’s doubly difficult to get them to fully focus on the next topic.
Send a meeting summary within 24 hours.
Four essential elements of the meeting summary would include:
- Decisions made
- Responsibilities given
- Tasks assigned
If you really want to be efficient with this step, go back to your agenda and include these items with each topic that was on the agenda. I know some of you are saying, “But Jones, I’m not in charge of the meeting.” In those cases, look for opportunities to suggest any of these tips to those leading your meetings. Remind them of what you (or they) could be working on that’s a top priority if you weren’t spending so much time in meetings. Otherwise, you’re doomed to more meaningless meetings… and isn’t that just what your busy schedule doesn’t need?
Jones Loflin is a global keynote speaker on innovative yet practical workplace challenges and opportunities specific to the critical needs in today’s marketplace. He is the author of several books, including the award‐winning, Juggling Elephants. Jones is a leader in solutions for individuals, groups and businesses dealing with lack of engagement, satisfaction and retention and all the tools to support balanced, productive lives.
For more information on booking a keynote speaker for one of your events, check out www.eaglestalent.com or call our office at 1.800.345.5607.