April 17, 2015
3 Steps Toward Better Meetings
by Carson Tate
How often did you attend a meeting in the last week without knowing why you were even there? Better meetings are possible -- and necessary.
How many meetings did you attend last week that lacked a specific agenda, started late and then ended late? How often did you attend a meeting without knowing why you were even there? How many meetings actually resulted in a new idea or significant decision?
With about 11 million business meetings occurring each day, one thing is clear: Meetings are a mainstay of business culture. When they are conducted effectively, they inspire and ignite innovation and lead to higher-performing teams and a stronger bottom line. When they are ineffective and irrelevant, they plague all of us with the notion that this time together was wasteful, costly and inefficient.
Too many meetings fail to generate any meaningful return on the investment of our time and energy. And they undermine our productivity. Our meeting-intensive culture forces people to complete their work in the margins of their day-early in the morning and late at night-hurting their health, motivation and work-life balance.
Something has to give.
It is time for better meetings. It is time for a meeting revolution.
Start the revolution by questioning the value of each meeting you attend, by preparing for your meetings and by ensuring that the right people, and only the right people, are invited.
1. QUESTION THE VALUE OF EACH AND EVERY MEETING YOU ATTEND
Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment for you. Ask yourself:
- Will this meeting assist me in achieving my goals?
- How does the purpose of the meeting align with the company’s strategic priorities?
- What contribution can I make in the meeting?
- Will anyone even notice if I’m not present?
- Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of me?
- Will this meeting be a rehash of the last five meetings I attended?
- Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of my time right now?
- Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.
2. SUCCESS AND EFFECTIVENESS DEPEND ON YOUR PLANNING
As you prepare for your next meeting, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do we need to meet?
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Is this an informational, decision-making, problem-solving, brainstorming, team-building or instructional/skill-building meeting? Or a combination of a few of these?
- What is the outcome I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
- Is there an alternative format I can use to achieve the outcome?
- If a meeting is essential, what is the ideal meeting format to achieve the meeting outcomes-an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting or a combination of the two?
- Who needs to attend the meeting?
- What information do I need from the attendees?
- What do the attendees need to know or complete in advance of the meeting to achieve the outcome?
- What expectations do I have for the meeting attendees regarding preparation and participation? How will I communicate these expectations?
- What is the ideal length of the meeting to accomplish the stated purpose of the meeting?
Use your answers to guide you in planning and preparing to have better meetings.
3. INVITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND ONLY THE RIGHT PEOPLE
To think about who to invite to your meeting, start by recognizing that there are four types of meeting attendees: the decision maker, the influencer, the resource person and the executer.
- The decision maker is the primary authority.
- The influencer has the pull and network within the organization to advocate and popularize meeting decisions and initiatives.
- The resource person has specific knowledge, skills and expertise needed to inform the decisions and create plans for executing those decisions.
- The executer has the knowledge, skills, resources and authority to successfully complete the work resulting from the meeting.
An ideal meeting has each of these types in attendance. Of course, one person can represent multiple roles, and more than one representative of a specific role may be required. For example, you may need three executers to complete a complex project discussed during the meeting.
To determine who really needs to attend the meeting, ask yourself:
- What is the meeting outcome?
- Who in the organization must be present to achieve the outcome?
- Who is the decision maker?
- Who is the influencer?
- Who is the resource person?
- Who is the executer?
- If there are people who will not be invited to the meeting but who have been invited to similar meetings in the past, how will I communicate my rationale for excluding them?
Without the right people in the meeting, nothing will be accomplished, and everyone’s time will be wasted. To have better meetings, invite the right people and only the right people.
A decision maker is not necessary to start a meeting revolution. A meeting revolution starts with one person choosing to do something differently and then communicating with colleagues about why she has chosen a different approach.
Thirty-seven percent of employee time is spent in meetings. So, when you choose to lead a meeting revolution, you are not only ensuring that this investment of time and energy generates a significant return on investment, you’re also giving your team time back to do the work they’re good at, the work they’re hired to do and the work that will grow the business.
What can do you right now?
- Here’s a game-changing question for you: Are you a planner, prioritizer, arranger or visualizer? Find out your productivity style in less than 10 minutes; take my free productivity style assessment.
- Want to take it to the next level? Share the assessment with your team, then start a conversation about your respective productivity styles and what you each need to work well.
Share your thoughts on how these strategies worked for you! Please leave a comment on this post.
This article originally appeared on fast company.com.