Making Meetings WORK For the Workplace

MeetingCartoonMEETING … a word that conjures up dread, groans and rolling eyes in most leaders AND employees.

Meetings SHOULD bring all needed voices, ears and eyes into a shared space to solve issues more efficiently and effectively. They should inspire great ideas, strengthen working relationships and leave all those involved feeling heard, understood, valued and more in-the-loop. Why do meetings cause so much workplace grumbling, pain and division?

Have a look at this list and note all the items that apply to meetings YOU attend:

  • Lack of preparation by those attending
  • Lack of pre-meeting communication by organizers of the meeting
  • power points that kill your will to live
  • contributers that could put 4 year olds wired on JOLT cola and Red Bull to sleep
  • people who hijack the meeting and take it off topic
  • the weird, unexplainable need some people have to say something, even if they really have nothing relevant to say
  • items that could have been handled by email, a private conversation, or a meeting you did not have to attend

The list could be longer, but I have a feeling you are nodding your head already.

There are literally thousands of books and even more articles on running effective meetings, yet we still have leaders and those they appoint, running meetings that frustrate, divide and … put people in a state of self-hypnosis. I’m not going to run through yet another boring step-by-step process to holding effective meetings.

I am going to focus on ONE common factor to all poorly run, ineffective meetings. If you can tackle this one by the horns, you are well on your way to making your next meeting … not hurt.

PREPARATION

Yes, believe it or not, this is the ONE factor everyone talks about, everyone says they do, but is at the very core of every meeting-gone-wrong. Here are the steps you need to do to properly prepare for a meeting, both for the leader and the participant.

The : Who regularly has something to say that’s valuable? Who never speaks? Who ALWAYS speaks … but has nothing valuable to say?

  • Know your OBJECTIVE of this meeting. You are about to request a meeting. WHY? Is it a regular weekly update? Do you always have a meeting on Wednesday at 1:00PM? Don’t hold a purposeless meeting. Create a purpose or mission statement for this meeting. State a specific outcome you will achieve. Make your purpose clear right from the start so everyone attending can prepare to contribute effectively and not distract.
  • ASK the people scheduled to attend what items of business they have for the meeting. Do these items involve the majority of the attendees? Do they involve discussion? Are they simply informing or updating information? Maybe these items are better handled through a MEMO, email or specific face-to-face discussions with a smaller team. For participants, REQUEST a specific amount of time to discuss your agenda item you are submitting. Give a quick description of your item and submit your document or reference items so others can prepare to discuss it effectively.
  • TRIM the fat off your meeting. It’s tempting and satisfying to fill your agenda with lots of items to be discussed. It makes us all feel very busy and important. Value your participants’ time. Keep your meetings lean and effective for EVERYONE in the room. When you respect others’ time, they will respect you, and be more willing to come to your meetings alert and ready to contribute. They will also appreciate when you trim THEIR item from the agenda and suggest it can be handled in more effective and efficient ways.
  • Set TIME LIMITS on discussion items according to IMPORTANCE, not URGENCY! Designate a timer for your meeting and coordinate ahead of time how you want that person to help you keep the meeting on time and on topic.
  • ANNOUNCE the meeting well in advance. If you don’t have a rough agenda yet, at least provide the objective, who is expected to be there and set the expectation of time and what agenda items they can and should submit, with a DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION!!! Also ask for confirmation of attendance. Make sure all people needed for a discussion or decision will be present.
  • DISTRIBUTE THE AGENDA in advance … and not the day of the meeting. Attach any relevant documents for their review. TELL them to review those documents BEFORE arriving, and to bring a printed copy with them. They will only forget once if you refuse to give them a copy at the meeting. Everyone will notice how unprepared and uncomfortable they are and credibility will suffer. Set your boundaries and expectations so future meetings will run more efficiently.
  • READ everything prior to arriving at the meeting. Show up prepared and ready to participate. Stick to the agenda. Respect everyone’s time and attention. Keep your contributions short, relevant and discussable.

Whether leader or participant, when you prepare yourself effectively for a meeting, your time management and credibility will increase and your dread of meetings will decrease.

But I’m just one person! What if no one else does these things? How can I change our meetings?

If there’s anything I know, it’s that you cannot change others, you can only better manage yourself and everything you are responsible for. Whatever your position, leader or participant, lead by your example. When others respect and admire your presence and your contribution to making meetings more effective, they will follow!

As I said earlier, this is just ONE item in a list of how to hold highly effective meetings in TODAY’s workplaces, which is part of my Communicating For the 21st Century Workshop. For more information on specific solutions for your team, or to bring me to your event or workplace, please submit the form below or email me.

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