Spoken and unspoken thoughts from the conference room:
“Where’s Ted? Wasn’t this meeting called for 1 PM?” (Question posed at 1:20 PM)
“Why is Carol monopolizing the meeting; she keeps saying the same thing over and over?”
“We have these weekly meetings and no one ever comes prepared.”
Have you ever had these thoughts? Oh c’mon, of course you have!
Meetings are a fact of life in companies big and small, and across almost every industry and profession. Regularly scheduled meetings and impromptu ones too can be a powerful and useful way to share information within the company, build esprit de corps, reinforce corporate standards and goals and establish new ones too.
Unfortunately, many business people have come to dread meetings and view them as a complete waste of time. I have heard from employees that they “zone out” often during a meeting because the information is not relevant to the meeting.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five suggestions on how you can run a more effective meeting and eliminate meeting misery within your company:
Provide attendees with a written agenda
Oftentimes meetings are scheduled and attendees have no idea about the purpose of the meeting and what is going to be discussed. There may be some rumors and hearsay but no one really knows for certain and hence, it may be impossible for attendees to discuss the topic at hand or to even be able to pose intelligent questions about the matter. A more effective plan is to prepare and distribute a meeting agenda citing the meeting objective, topics and start/stop times. This will help to ensure that all attendees come to the meeting on-time and informed, prepared, and able to actively participate.
Suggestion: When you send the Outlook appointment to all of the attendees, add the Agenda within the appointment; that way, no one can say “I did see it!”
Establish a firm start and stop time
One of the biggest problems with holding a meeting is “time creep” whereby people arrive late to the meeting, making it difficult to effectively cover the agenda without going past the established stop time. Regardless of who is in the room make certain to start the meeting at the designated time and continue even when people are late.
Make it the employee’s responsibility to get the information they missed and do not take up the time of anyone that made it to the meeting on time. (Some business owners and managers will not allow anyone to enter the meeting once it has started.)
Provide a warning to any employees that are regularly late and make certain that everyone knows your strict commitment to on-time attendance.
Control the meeting and table off-topic subjects for another meeting
While having a prepared agenda is the best way to ensure that attendees stay on topic, there is often an employee or two that attempts to take the conversation in another direction. Remain in control of the meeting by reminding everyone of the established agenda but ensure them that the subject will be addressed in another meeting or in a separate, one-to-one conversation, especially if the topic is personal and not applicable to other employees.
Take notes or assign someone to record meeting minutes
It can be difficult to run a meeting as well as take notes so if it is at all possible, assign someone to take meeting minutes. If there is no one appropriate for that role, take the notes yourself and make certain to transcribe them immediately after the meeting before there is an opportunity to forget what was discussed. Regardless of who takes the notes, the minutes should be distributed to all attendees within 24 hours of the meeting.
Establish a rule that cell phones must be turned off and/or left on their desks
I admit to being in the business world well before the advent of cell phones, however, even without digital distractions, there were still people that never seemed to pay attention in meetings and would spend the time doodling and gazing off into the distance. Cell phones have made it even worse and even though attendees will say that they are using their phone to take notes, it is far better to restrict them from the room or to ask that they are turned off.
Employees may balk but you’ll find that you will run a better meeting and get more participation when attendees aren’t frequently glancing at their device and responding to texts and emails.
I’m confident that if you establish these guidelines, you will find that you’ll be able to run more effective and time-efficient meetings and be able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time. Your meeting misery will be eliminated and, after all, isn’t that the goal!