How many meetings do you attend in the average month, week or day? Have you ever asked yourself why you can’t ever get any work done? If the answer is “meetings”, you are not alone. Meetings can be one of the biggest time stealers in a workday. Some people even call meetings to discuss what meetings are needed in the future. While the number of meetings can be overwhelming, there are things you can do to tame the meeting beast.
1 – Prepare an agenda. More importantly, stick to it. If there are other participants that may need input, ask for agenda items ahead of time. Take control. Provide a deadline for getting agenda items back to you. If the item does not reach your desk by the cutoff, move it to the next meeting. Only fit enough items in the agenda that can be covered in the allotted time. Once the agenda is finalized, send it out to all attendees. The advanced preview will give them time to consider the items and their response.
2 – Set time limits. The allotted meeting time should be based on the importance of agenda items. Assign a timekeeper and set time limits on all discussions. If you normally allow two hours for meetings, but the agenda is sparse – consider shortening the meeting time for this particular session. If the agenda is particularly sparse, consider moving the items to the next scheduled meeting. Better yet, determine if the issue can be covered quickly via e-mail or telephone.
3 – Start on time and end on time. Do you have members of your staff that casually stroll into meetings 10 minutes late? Arriving on time to meetings should be an issue addressed during performance evaluations. Do you recap items for the late arrivals on issues that have already been discussed? Stop. Instruct attendees beforehand that missed information will be shared after the meeting or they can review in the minutes. Do not disrupt the meeting to constantly acknowledge late comers. They have drawn enough attention as it is. Did the subject owner miss their assigned time on the meeting docket? Move the item off until the next meeting. If it was important, they should have arrived on time.
4 – Prepare minutes and follow up. Do people receive action items in one meeting and then arrive to the second meeting asking what they were supposed to do? Send out minutes within 24-48 hours after the meeting. This will give attendees a chance to work on any action items while the topic is still fresh in their minds. Check back with the attendees prior to any subsequent meetings. There is no point having a follow up meeting if all the action items are not complete.
5 – If the meeting is not necessary, why have it? There are more productive things that you can be doing with your time.
6 – Run your meetings. Don’t let meetings run you.