I am not a fan of meetings. I absolutely dread them. I have always been vocal about the fact that meetings are a waste of time. A subject gets talked to to death but nothing comes from it. Pure waste of mine and everyone else’s time. I could always think of a way to be using my time more productively…like taking a nap!
Over time I figured out that the problem was not the meeting itself but the way the meeting was managed or run. Nowadays, I am a very strong proponent of meetings, as long as they are well run.
During the past several years I have been involved in many, many meetings. I have been able to observe how different people run their meetings. I have been able to learn from these people and take qualities and apply them to the way I like to run meetings. Here are a few of the things I have found that make for an effective meeting:
- Meetings take place routinely. Constancy and consistency are major factors in creating an atmosphere that fosters productivity. Having a regular schedule to your meetings, especially staff and work committee meetings, allows all members to find a routine which will make them more productive.
- Meetings have a fixed and predetermined length. Don’t intrude on everyone else’s schedule by having meetings go longer than the allotted time frame. Members will already have plans for after the meetings and if they take place during the work day, or be wanting to be home if the meetings are in the evening. People tend to become restless if they don’t know when a meeting will end. I have found that any meeting, for whatever reason, that goes past an hour and a half tends to be inefficient and less productive than a shorter, more focused meeting.
- Meetings have an agenda prepared ahead of time. Each member should submit their agenda items ahead of time. It should be a very rare occurence when someone brings up a non-agenda item. This will largely determine the length and focus of the meeting. Generic agenda items should be avoided. “Update on sales” or “Marketing results” or anything that is just information being reported to the group should be submitted to the group ahead of time and everyone will have had an opportunity to read all the supporting material before coming to the meeting. If you are required to accept these reports at a meeting, then this will take up only enough of your meeting time to hold a vote. If no one has any real agenda items then you probably don’t need to have a meeting.
- Meetings focus a great deal of time on alignment. Are all the areas of your business in alignment together? Do they fulfill or compliment the vision of your organization? It would be better to have no staff members than to have staff members whose work goes in a direction other than the established vision or mission of the organization.
- Meetings start on time and finish on time. Begin the meetings even if members are late. If the meeting gets started late then the chances for this being an effective meeting are greatly reduced. Make sure you, as the leader of the meeting, are punctual about starting and ending. This also shows respect to your members by not wasting their time.
- Meetings conclude with action items. As the meeting ends, the leader or facilitator, notes what is to be done after the meeting, who is to do it, and what the timetable for completion is. The leader makes certain everyone is in agreement with these action items.
Incorporating these aspects of effective meetings into your own will greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your meetings.