Effective Meetings Matter

Effective Meetings Matter

No matter your business, meetings take up a considerable amount of time. Whether your meetings consist of just one other person going through a product pitch or whether it is a team meeting with fifteen members trying to align on a decision, there is waste that exists that is killing your productivity and costing you and your organization money. The good news is most of the time wasted in meetings through various means can be eliminated and can make the time spent more effective. The following are ways you can maximize your time and value. After all, being good at running meetings is not sexy, but it is a skill that you want in your tool bag and it is something you want your personal brand to encompass- being known for efficiency and the ability to get things done.

Think of a meeting that lasts for an hour with 10 participants in attendance with an average hourly rate of $50 an hour. I'm sure you can recognize some areas that time is wasted just thinking about a meeting you have been in recently:

  • Setting up the meeting technology: the bridge line, the projector needed to be setup, the person that was presenting had to pull the PowerPoint up on their computer.
  • Needless talking about subjects that are of a personal nature to start, like what everyone did over the weekend.
  • Going down a rabbit hole on a particular topic that is adjacent to what is being talked about.
  • Someone that talks excessively when it is their turn to contribute.
  • Technology issues such as someone dialing in that can't be heard.

If there are 15 minutes of time in every meeting wasted on these types of distraction, over the course of 8 meetings in a workday with 10 participants, the company lost 20 hours of productivity. In financial terms, that is $1,000 spent in salary a day for no productivity. $365,000 per year. Even if you say it fast, that's still a big number. That is a bad meeting.

Meeting inefficiency is a major problem and should be addressed. Good meetings that are highly effective and efficient follow three simple rules:

  1. The meeting has a purpose.
  2. The meeting has an agenda and sticks to it.
  3. The meeting takes the minimum time possible.

Purpose

Establish the meeting purpose ahead of time and communicate that to its participants. What is it that will be accomplished as a group in this time together. People will appreciate that there is a reason for the meeting. There is an objective. Is this meeting for brainstorming ideas for a new product ideation? To reach a decision? Knowledge sharing? Status update?

You should be able to write one or two sentences that boils down exactly what the meeting's objective is. This is the base of the pyramid for an effective meeting.

Agenda

First off, have a meeting agenda. It is amazing how many meetings don't have an outline of what will happen in this gathering. Meetings are about effectively communicating. Any communication without structure is just babble.

A great meeting agenda should be published well ahead of the meeting. It should include the following elements:

  • Date and Time

    When the meeting will take place. If you have access to calendars, make sure the required participants are free during the time you schedule.

  • Place

  • Where the meeting will occur. Make sure to detail where those in remote locations should congregate if there will be participants together. Also, ensure there is a conference line or screen-sharing technology resource allocated if needed.

  • Topics

  • What are the conversation topics that will be covered? Go into detail about what exactly is expected for each of these meeting conversations. Spell out any decisions that need to be made.

  • Responsibilities

  • Who is going to talk or present in the meeting on each of the topics. Provide the owners notice on what they should come to the meeting prepared to talk about.

  • Materials

  • Include any materials (PowerPoint, whitepaper, etc.) that will be presented at the meeting to make it most effective.

  • History

  • If there were meetings prior to this scheduled meeting, include what decisions were made at the previous meeting, any open action items, and a brief recap of the meeting.

Time

Meetings are necessary but time is your most valuable asset to be productive. As such, you and all of your meeting participants should work towards achieving the purpose of the meeting in the shortest amount of time possible. This is done first and foremost by having a meeting chair (the person that runs the meeting) that is in control of the conversation and keeps the group focused on the task at hand.

It is very easy to go off into the weeds on topics that may be important but are not aligned with what is trying to be accomplished. The most important thing the meeting chair and the rest of the meeting participants can do is to immediately recognize when the conversation has strayed, acknowledge that it is going off topic, and get the group focused where it should be. The chair should also make sure the items in the agenda are being followed with an eye on the objective of the meeting.

Another way to keep meetings concise is to speak with purpose. Don't ramble on for the sake of talking. Don't talk about things that are not important to what you are trying to get done. Instead, try to get your point across on any given question in under 2 minutes. Obviously that may not be appropriate if you are giving a recap of a major project, but if there is a round-table discussion where you are asked for your opinion provide that answer in as few words as you can. This takes practice, but it is a skill that will help build your brand as an effective leader.

Running effective meetings will not only help you develop a personal brand as a leader, it will save you and your organization both time and money. It is really simple to have effective meetings if you put effort into it.

Have a purpose.

Have an agenda.

Have a focus on time.

Put the three of those together and you will have a productive meeting, giving you space in your calendar to do more important activities.

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