Whether we work for a large corporation or volunteer for a charity, meetings are a part of most people’s lives. I’ve heard many complaints about having to go to meetings, and yet I know that they are a vital part of an efficient operation. The key is to design meetings that are brief, structured, and respectful of everyone’s time.
A leader. Meetings flounder if everyone is trying to be in charge. One person should be tasked with sticking to the agenda.
A start and stop time. Nothing is worse than watching your time fizzle away in a poorly run meeting. Honor those who have arrived on time by beginning at the designated time. If it is clear that an item cannot be sufficiently handled before the meeting’s close, survey the group to see if the meeting can be extended. If not, reschedule remaining items to another meeting. Never assume that everyone can simply “stay longer.”
A clear agenda, circulated in advance. Consider using a cloud-based agenda (such as a Google doc) that everyone can access on electronic devices. This will reduce the amount of paper waste/clutter. Furthermore, it will be easy to reference previous meeting agendas, decisions and action items.
Nothing on the agenda that can be better handled in another setting. Don’t waste people’s time with items that can be resolved by email, phone, memo or other means. In addition, don’t use a large group setting to iron out details between only 2 or 3 attendees. Be alert during the meeting to identify when it is wise to move a discussion item offline to a smaller group.
A name next to every action item. During meetings, it is easy to get excited about ideas. Unfortunately, it is also easy to end the meeting without actually assigning anyone responsibility for following up. When this happens, the good idea disappears in the mist. Someone should be assigned responsibility and held accountable.
A reasonable meeting time. When scheduling meetings, it is a good idea to be respectful of those who will be attending. For standing meetings, try and schedule them for the same time each week (e.g. Wednesday morning.) As a general rule, avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, when most people have other priorities.
An efficient environment. If you have lounge chairs and a buffet lunch, there is little incentive for folks to work quickly. Instead, meet in a space with a good wifi signal and no distractions. Need to wrap a meeting up quickly? Hold the meeting standing up!
Meetings are an important way for us to connect, grow and improve. So take the time to design your meetings to make the most of everyone’s time and talents.
For more information on time management, contact The Seana Method on the form above.