Do you know how much time you and your team members spend in meetings? And are they really productive ones?
Consider this bit of information: If you’re a middle manager, it’s likely that about 35% of your time at work is spent in meetings, and if you’re in upper management, it can be a whopping 50%. So let’s ask this question again – how productive are your meetings?
Meetings are meant to be an efficient way of discussing ideas – instead of A talking to B who then has to confirm with C who needs to know D’s availability…. you get the picture.
“In essence, when a meeting is properly organised, it becomes a space for people to get together to discuss ideas, debate issues, overcome obstacles, and drive outcomes.”
So what happens?
When a meeting is set without proper preparation, it becomes a place for people to just talk – ideas disappear quickly with no outcomes or follow up, and the whole thing becomes a waste.
In America, statistics have shown that more than US $ 37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings – this, taking into account that it is estimated there are 25 million meetings per day there in the last year alone.
So how do we overcome this?
By making sure that every meeting we organize is prepared for the best possible outcome, of course. Especially when we realise that disorganized and poorly managed meetings waste time and hurt our credibility as meeting organizers.
The first step in making your meeting effective begins with your planning and preparation activity. Determining the purpose of your meeting, the people who should attend, and the place of the meeting will in essence form the foundation of how well your meeting is run. The added benefit of doing this is that you will avoid unexpected incidents and issues that could derail your meeting.
Let’s start with the purpose – which is the most important component of all. Here are some common reasons to call a meeting:
- Problem solving
- Decision making
- Conflict resolution
- Project initiation
Once you determine your meeting purpose, you can list all the names of the participants you wish to attend. Once this list is created, then you need to determine what each participant will contribute to the meeting. If a participant is deemed a non-contributor, they should be removed from the list. When all non-contributors are removed, you should have a good list of participants for your meeting.
So how do you determine who’s a contributor and who’s not? This is important because who attends your meeting could help or hinder the meeting dynamics.
For example, if you are meeting to resolve a problem, only those who are capable of providing solutions to the problem should be there. Inviting a high-ranking manager who could thwart solutions before they are developed is a bad idea. On the other hand, if your meeting is to come to a decision on a policy or product, do not invite people who do not have the power to enact those changes.
So what happens if someone insists on coming if they are not going to contribute effectively? When they join, introduce them as observers who may or may not stay all the way through due to their busy schedule. This way, when they themselves realise that they need not be there, they will excuse themselves accordingly.
A third important component would be the timing and location of your meeting.
For instance, the time of day is essential if your meeting is meant to be a brainstorming session or problem-solving meeting. Setting these types of meetings right after lunch or late in the day is a bad idea because people are usually lethargic after lunch, and everyone wants to get home at the end of the work day.
Meetings that require energy and high level of participation are best scheduled in the first hour of the workday. Most people are not engaged in their daily work yet so you will have their attention and energy in the meeting. If direct participation is not that important, the next best time for a meeting is around 3 PM. This gives your participants enough time to recuperate from lunch and gives you at least an hour before they start thinking about going home.
The location is also important to your meeting dynamics. Try to schedule your meeting in a well-lit spacious room. If you can get a room with windows, do so. Dark and cramped rooms will bog down your meeting. Some people get claustrophobic and are distracted by their surroundings.
Do you need privacy? A sensitive topic may better be discussed in a private room so that participants are more comfortable to discuss the issue. Is an outside visitor coming? Get a room that is closest to the main entrance. This way your visitor does not have to search everywhere for the meeting location.
When you’ve got these down pat, you’re already halfway prepared for your meeting – now all you need as a meeting organiser is an agenda, a timekeeper, the right materials, and to identify the roles each attendee holds in the meeting, and you’re set.