We spend too much time in meetings, and many of us feel we are wasting our time. Recently, Verizon Conferencing commissioned the Meetings in America study which showed workers today spend an average of 10.7 hours a week either attending or preparing for meetings, and a enormous 71 percent feel that it is not a productive use of their time. In the study, most of the respondents (over 90%) admit to daydreaming, missing meetings or parts of meetings. Over 70% say they have brought other work to meetings and almost 40% say they have dozed off during meetings! What kind of dysfunction are we propagating!
It starts with the meeting leader. Corrective action “can be handled so easily by the leader,” says Sam Parker, co-founder of GiveMore.com. “Almost all [causes of frustration] fall into that category. Respect your attendees by preparing well, communicating well and valuing everyone’s time.” Preparation before the meeting will prevent 90% of the problems. Your meeting should have only one over-arching objective: “Make your attendees better as a result of being there “says Parker.
Here are ten common problems that we all encounter and solutions that will help increase the “value” of a meeting:
Problem 1: “Why am I here?”
Solution: Only invite persons who need to attend to a meeting; If invited to a meeting that you cannot contribute to or gain insight (value) from – decline and don’t go.
Problem 2: ‘We Have Meetings Just to Have Meetings!’
Solution: Don’t have un-necessary meetings . Email updates on standard business.
Problem 3. “I don’t know what we are going to cover; there is no agenda!”
Solution: I have a simple rule – No agenda, no meeting. If you cannot tell me what I need to prepare for, I’m not going to waste my time.
Problem 4: “None of the background materials were sent out ahead of time!”
Solution: Corollary to Problem 3 – no documents, no meeting.
Problem 5: Meetings don’t start on time.
Solution: Strictly enforce the start time – no exceptions. Do not backtrack for stragglers.
Problem 6: “Discussion never stays on track! There is too much rambling and repetition.”
Solution: Use a well defined agenda, and stick to it. State what you have to say succinctly and clearly, then proceed to the next business. Leaders can ask ,“ does anyone have a different point of view that hasn’t already been expressed? If not, we will vote.”
Problem 7: “There is no point to this meeting.”
Solution: Align the meeting’s purpose to well-established association/organizational objectives.
Problem 8: “It’s too long. It’s too boring.”
Solution: Keep the agenda streamlined and follow it. Make sure to require attendees to arrive prepared, with the proper materials and to be actively engaged participants.
Problem 9. There are no ‘action items’.
Solution: Make sure duties are assigned to attendees capable of doing them. As new tasks surface during the meeting make sure that you explicitly note WHO is assigned WHAT task and BY WHEN is it due. Review the WHO does WHAT by WHEN (WdWbW) action items list as the final item on the agenda.
Problem 10. “My meetings never finish on time, even when we all get there promptly!”
Solution: Respect the time commitments your attendees have made to come; make sure you end the meeting on time, even if there are items left on the agenda. They can be covered at a later meeting. Use a “timed” agenda if necessary or put fewer item on the agenda.
BONUS! Here’s one last trick you can do to endear yourself to your attendees:
Problem 11: “I can never get to my next meeting on time, because we used the entire hour.”
Solution: Have 45 to 55 minute long meetings rather than one hour long ones. End the meeting at XX:55 to give 5 minutes bathroom break and passing time to the next meeting. Or better yet, start your meetings at five minutes after the hour in case a previous meeting runs right up to the top of the hour.
Follow these 10 (11!) tips and you will have successful meetings.