Many working professionals and entrepreneurs will complain that meetings can be the number one waste of time for people and organisations as a whole. Meetings are meant to boost productivity but the truth is many are doing it all wrong. I’ve collected 7 top tips for ensuring that your meetings are productive. These can be applied to different types of meetings including internal meetings, sales calls, project team meetings, progress reports, operational meetings and many more types of business meetings.
Have a known objective
I think the worst feeling in business is going for a meeting whose agenda you don’t know. So please drop the habit of setting meetings without a known agenda. Frankly, people walk into meetings like this unprepared and rarely contribute anything of value and this is the number one reason why meetings become a waste of time. Whoever set the meeting up spends 30 minutes talking about something nobody has prepared to give meaningful input on and they get a “we will get back to you”. It is the same with internally as it is externally. Create meetings with an agenda letting each person know what exactly is expected of them.
We’ve already mentioned that not setting an agenda is a major cause of lack of preparation but it’s not the only reason. Many times people don’t know what to prepare for or to prepare for that matter. By letting people know what you expect in the meeting you allow them time to prepare but you yourself must also be prepared. The best meetings are the ones where the person with the power (employer, client, etc) does more listening. It is a culture that is bread and a simple reminder in a memo to be prepared goes a long way.
Keep the group as small as possible
This one is important. While from time to time the meeting is about information and appraisal where meetings are expected to produce decisions it is important to have a group that is as small as possible to ensure the meeting only includes people who can affect decisions. Tread carefully here. I mentioned earlier that the best meetings are the ones where the person with the power spends more time listening. However, too many diverging opinions or people with a desire to be heard makes the meeting drag and while I have no empirical evidence to back this up I’m sure many will agree that longer meetings do not make better meetings. This especially counts for pitch meetings where you want to make sure you’re talking to decision-makers and not the interns.
Multiple meeting agendas are fine to a point but trying to run multiple agendas at the same time is not advisable at any point. This may not happen so much with internal meetings as it does with external meetings. Say you are meeting with a potential client and they try to take you back and forth between different elements of the deal, this is the hallmark of a terrible meeting. It is wisest to maintain a flow that deals with one issue then on to the next.
Keep it short
Meetings are generally about coming to some sort of resolution and while sometimes you have meetings based on sharing information, you shouldn’t. This is exactly what reports are for. For the meetings you need to have remember to keep it short, having more time to make decisions doesn’t actually improve the quality of decisions arrived at. 10 -15 minutes is a good meeting, 30 minutes needs to be justified and anything over 30 minutes needs serious consideration. Of course, some meetings need more time because there are a lot of perspectives to be heard however, recall to tip number three to have only the essential decision-makers in the meeting.
Questions & Answers
We’ve spoken a lot about time and format now let’s look at how you close your meetings. There must be a question and answer segment of a meeting that allows participants to first ask questions and secondly to ascertain that everyone involved understands. This needs to be allowed to be an open process and not forced. However, it should carry on only to the extent that it aids understanding.
This is the final and absolutely critical task. If you’ve worked in sales you’ll have no problem with this, set follow up actions. Leave the meeting with both resolutions and the knowledge of what the next action is, who will take it, what they will do after taking it and who they pass the output on to. If each person in the meeting has a task to carry out it must be stated and noted. That way just as you started the meeting knowing everyone’s objectives, you also leave knowing the same.
Meetings need not be a drag or productivity thief with these 7 tips at your hands.