The Guardian has recently highlighted our love-hate relationship with workplace meetings and offered some useful advice for making them work. Why do we so often walk away from meetings feeling that they have been a complete waste of time and effort?
Why is it that so many of us dread the regular and seemingly interminable internal meetings that seem to be scheduled with alarming frequency? Meetings can be an important forum for sharing ideas and information, making decisions and building team relationships but they need careful consideration and planning in order to make them effective and efficient. If you are leading or even attending a meeting in the coming days or weeks, consider the following strategies and tips:
Plan your meeting carefully – prepare and circulate an agenda a couple of days before hand if possible. The agenda should include not only your list of discussion points but also clear objectives for why the meeting is taking place
Stick to time – before or at the beginning of the meeting agree how long is needed for the meeting to meet its objectives. If you don’t need an hour don’t take an hour.
Leave smart phones outside – it might sound controversial but the meeting will be shorter and more effective if attendees are fully focused and don’t have half an eye on their emails.
Minimise visuals – if you do need to use a PowerPoint presentation or other visual aid, keep it short and sweet – and make sure it really is visual.
Lead from the front – if you are chairing or facilitating the meeting then make sure you do. It is important to allow everyone the opportunity to air their ideas and ask questions, but if you are chairing the meeting it is your job to manage the interruptions, digressions and ramblings to ensure the meeting finishes on time and achieves its objectives.
Take notes and summarise action points – you don’t have to do this yourself but make sure someone is responsible for the minutes which are summarised at the end and then circulated after the meeting. There is nothing worse than coming away from a meeting with no clear idea of what has been agreed or what you need to do.
With resources increasingly strained in many organisations, we need to make sure that meetings really make a difference. Training in Facilitating Meetings can provide frameworks and techniques for ensuring that meetings run smoothly and effectively.