Our lives are full of meetings. Some are productive, but unfortunately many are not.
So much time is lost with wasteful, ill-conceived meetings. Imagine this scenario: a group of 10 people are scheduled to attend a 2-hour meeting. On average, it takes each member 30 minutes to travel to and from the meeting. That is a total of 30 hours, or almost an entire workweek, that has gone into that one meeting. It better have been worth it!
A couple of years ago, I vowed I would do what I could to lead meetings that valued time and the participants. Practice and experience taught me a lot.
Here are my six strategies that will help you lead productive and purposeful meetings.
Purpose: There should always be a good reason for people to drop what they are doing in order to attend a meeting. Even if the meeting schedule was set well in advance, make sure the original purpose is still valid.
Before confirming the meeting, you should be able to complete at least one of these statements: “We are getting together so that we can… because we need to… so that we can…”
If there is a clear, purposeful reason for the meeting, go ahead. If there isn’t, cancel it.
Prepare: When sending out the meeting confirmation, let the committee members know what is expected so that they can prepare for the meeting. I usually tell the group to read the circulated materials prior to the meeting, as we will only take questions and comments. In other words, the reports will not be read aloud at the meeting.
Of course, this means materials need to be prepared in advance, so that the committee members can prepare.
Plan: Before finishing a meeting, it is a good practice to plan what needs to be done at the following meeting. Review the questions that are awaiting answers and the tasks needing action. Document these in the minutes and include them in your next meeting reminder. It’s a great way to ensure your next meeting has purpose.
Participate: Do your best to get everyone to participate by calling upon each for their comments and questions. If you are dealing with an important topic and need full participation, tell the committee, prior to the meeting, that you will be going around the table asking every member for their feedback. Once again, the participants have the opportunity to prepare in advance.
Persistent: As the meeting leader, always be gently persistent. It’s your job to keep the conversation on topic, prevent individuals from dominating, and avoid unnecessary repetition. You may sometimes feel like an autocrat, but at the end of the meeting your colleagues will be happier to have experienced a well-run meeting that ends on schedule.
Professional: This means respecting your colleagues’ time and contributions. Prepare and conduct meetings like a professional and expect professionalism from your colleagues. The meetings do not have to be stuffy and formal, but you will be surprised what can be accomplished from a well-run meeting.
The Takeaway: Implement the six Ps of meeting management and you will find the quality and productivity of your meetings quickly improving. You may even find the duration of your meetings start to shorten.
Remember: Your meetings need purpose, planning and preparation. Get everyone to participate. And be persistent and professional.
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