Donna McGeorge (pictured below) is a speaker, mentor and author of the book The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact. In this guest post, McGeorge offers her five top tips to ensure your next meeting is less disaster and more workable outcome…
Think of the last meeting you ran or attended. Would you say it was purposeful, mindful or even useful? Did you leave feeling energised? Could you say it was a good use of your time? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then you are among the lucky 10 per cent of those who say meetings make a positive difference to their work.
Most of us will find ourselves in with the other 90 per cent who say that meetings are frequently wasteful, woeful and painful. One study by Clarizen, a software company, even found that people would rather take a trip to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) or watch paint dry than attend a workplace meeting. Apparently, 8 per cent of responders said they’d rather endure a root canal.
We need meetings. We need them at work because when they work, they are valuable. Clear actions get set, decisions are made and the whole business moves forward. Here are 5 sins we make when it comes to meetings and how to avoid them all.
SIN 1: Poor punctuality
Punctuality, or rather lack thereof, is interpreted as a lack of respect for others’ time. It drives us crazy! This can impact your team dynamics as a whole. Most meetings these days are booked for an hour, and if we are late we are eating into everyone’s time, not just your own.
Hence, just show up on time! Period. Start meetings at the exact time scheduled, irrespective of who is in the room. Don’t tolerate anything else. Everyone will soon get the standard that is accepted.
SIN 2: Too many, too often
Too often I have heard people say that their evenings (when they should be with their families, friends or enjoying leisure time) are spent catching up on actual work or emails they have missed. This madness has got to stop!
We need to have and hold everyone accountable to a meeting strategy, BEFORE we organise to meet. Are you meeting to share information, make a decision or come up with a solution to a problem? If you can’t tick one of these boxes then you have no reason to meet.
SIN 3: No agenda
One of the top pet peeves of people who attend meetings is that they usually don’t understand why the meeting is happening or why they are even there.
Without a clear and focused agenda, we don’t know how to prepare for the meeting, which means we waste time when we arrive trying to find out through pointless chit-chat.
What outcome or result is everyone headed for in the meeting? Share an agenda 24 hours before you meet to give everyone time to show up prepared and with any reports or documents that they need to contribute.
SIN 4: Using phones or laptops
How often have you noticed people in meetings checking their phones or laptops, sometimes not even sneakily? Speakers in the meeting read this as a lack of interest in what they are saying, which contributes to a feeling of disrespect and can create all kinds of angst and issues after the meeting.
If we’re working on one thing, while pretending to do another, it also means we have a low attention span for anything. You’re not participating in the meeting fully, and you’re also not responding to your email well either.
So meetings should be unplugged: no phones, laptops or tablets allowed, yes, even for taking notes.
SIN 5: Hijackers
Do you know someone who always seems to hijack the meeting, chewing up time talking about something that should probably be talked about elsewhere (be honest: is that even you)?
There always seems to be one person with the louder voice, wasting air time, irrespective of whether it was on the agenda or not. Having a process and a structure to facilitate the discussion means that everyone can contribute evenly and you can plan your free-flowing conversations effectively. Nominate a chair who has the right to interrupt and park non-relevant issues.