We can’t go on meeting like this – Part 2 Better Meetings

Take the opportunity to re-engineer meetings and so do them better

The average business professional in the USA attends more than two meetings a day. Nine out of ten participants admit to daydreaming. 73% have brought other work to meetings and 39% say they have dozed off. One firm reported that 80% of top management time was taken up discussing issues that account for less than 20% of the company’s long term value. Psychologists found that the effectiveness of meetings influences the well-being of employees and their attitude towards work. So it seems like a good idea for companies to get better at meetings. The shift to online is a useful opportunity to rethink.

Is a meeting really necessary?

The first question to ask is do we really need a meeting? Do you need people to interact with one another to share opinions and knowledge, and build a shared picture of the issue under discussion? If so then a well-run meeting is ideal. In most cases of sharing information, e-mail or voicemail will probably suffice. Busy people cannot afford to waste time in chit-chat or admiring reports that are to bolster someone’s self-esteem. A productive meeting must have a clear purpose and objective measures of success.

Laundry lists

In her book The Manager’s Guide to Effective Meetings (McGraw-Hill, 2002), Barbara Streibel says:

If I’m organizing a meeting, I want to get beyond “discuss”.  Maybe “discuss and decide.” Or “discuss and build a plan,” or “discuss and identify key barriers to success.”

I want an action. I don’t need a laundry list of what’s happened in the last week.

15 practical hints to make meetings more effective, whether or not online:

  1. Break the superstitious habit; meet only for defined purposes
  2. Build a time-sensitive agenda and distribute it in advance
  3. Make sure only the right people attend
  4. Do as much pre-work as you can in advance
  5. Don’t force people to remain if the meeting has moved on to matters that don’t concern them
  6. Don’t tolerate digressions, ego-trips or time-stealers
  7. Gather and share feedback and use it to become better at running or taking part in meetings
  8. Record and distribute minutes for each meeting
  9. Break into small groups for problem-solving
  10. Before meeting, send out relevant information by email
  11. Apply agreed rules to govern how people behave in groups
  12. Use the correct tools and methods for brainstorming, categorising, voting/prioritising, group decision-making, surveys, action plans, meeting documentation.
  13. Start and end meetings on time
  14. Don’t let meetings drag on for too long – break the work into a series of short, virtual meetings
  15. Set a periodic meetings-free day

What next?

Part three of this ten-part series is about selecting the right tools and making best use of what you already have.

We’ll post it in a couple of days time, so do please come back.

We’re hoping you will add your own ideas to these blog items too, so we can create of it something that is representative of the experience of a wide range of  practitioners and helps us all to understand what works and what doesn’t.

About Phil Green

Phil Green has written 83 post in this blog.

Phil identifies himself as a perfomance consultant and teacher who helps people and organisations to do the best they can at work. He has strong skills in designing learning materials and workflow support, and draws from a wide spectrum of methods and technology. Co-designer of a certificated qualification in blended learning, he has trained hundreds of others from many industry sectors in how to create effective learning solutions, both online and offline.

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