Topic of the Week The Meet Market: Holding Effective Meetings
Studies show that, on average, we attend 62 meetings a month and 50% of this time is wasted. Which reminds me of an email that I received a few years ago. His company had been struggling. The boss called a meeting and said, "We're going to keep on having these meetings until we figure out why nothing is getting done around here." You just can't make this stuff up.
Meetings are a great idea: they can bring people together, create a sense of camaraderie and get people working off the same page. The only problem is that often do the exact opposite: wasting time, creating ill will and slowing things down. The problem? Meetings become an end unto themselves rather than a means to an end. Recently I worked with a client who has remarkably effective meetings. I studied what they did to determine their secret, welcome to the four "P's".
Prepare. Every time a meeting is held there should be advanced preparations. Planning for the space, who should attend and any necessary research that needs to be done before the meeting. Agendas should be always be sent out at least a few days before the meeting so people are ready to hit the ground running.
Purpose. What would happen if you went around the room before your next meeting and asked each person to write down the purpose of the meeting? I'd bet that you could see as many as fifteen ideas for what the meeting was all about, even if only ten people were attending it. You know the old line about sailing, "If you don't know where you're headed, any old port will do." Okay, when I was growing up my old man had a boat but it also applies to meetings.
Participation. Call me old school, but each person who attends a meeting should participate at some point in the meeting. If they don't, then why are they there. Let's face it, we're a Twitter world, everyone expects to be able to contribute. So it's important to build in techniques to let everyone get involved: from Twitter feeds, to white boards where people can leave comments to regular check-ins with all participants.
Plan. This is the reason that most meetings don't work, because there is too little attention put into what needs to happen after the meeting. Okay, most meetings do discuss the calendar and when the next meeting will occur. But how often are there assignments for each person to tackle after the meeting ends? And finally, and probably most important, a time to debrief to determine anything that should change in the process before the next meeting.
But my favorite policy for making meetings the most effective? There should be no regular meetings, every meeting should have to be justified. Think about it, how would you feel if suddenly an hour was freed up on a regular basis because there was no reason to meet. Imagine that, having time to do your job, how cool is that?
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winningworkplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.