Let’s not mince words: Bad meetings suck.
We’ve all given bad meetings and been subjected to bad meetings—it's not hard, especially with 25 million (gulp) meetings taking place daily in corporate America. The bummer with bad meetings, however, is that they don’t just kill attention span, productivity and morale.
They kill time. And not in an oh-I’ll-just-mess-around-on-Facebook-for-15-minutes kind of time. Bad meetings kill time dead and send you calendar reminders that you’ll never get it back.
So how do you stop meetings from sucking every ounce of life out of you, your team and your clients? These nine tips will help stop the senseless slaughter of your time … and everyone else's.
1. Put an end to standing meetings. Most standing meetings are used as catch-up time and an opportunity for various teams to report in. How about letting everyone actually get some work done instead of having a group get-nothing-done session? Status updates can be asked for and sent over email. Project management systems can keep entire teams up to date on progress, processes and needs. If you have to have a standing meeting, make it a stand-up meeting ...
2. Try stand-up meetings. Yes, these are meetings where your entire team, literally, stands up. No chairs. Key team members state what they’ve accomplished since the last meeting, what their task-at-hand is, and if there’s anything standing in the way of them getting that task completed. These are fast, efficient and offer just the facts.
3. Make remote meetings video meetings. Skip voice-only calls. Without video, we’re all multitasking in the background and pretending the other person cut out when they ask us for our thoughts on something (“Could you repeat that? You cut out for a second there”). Video makes everyone pay attention, and while you might have to get dressed, your colleagues and clients deserve at least that in the name of getting things done. Try Blue Jeans, OoVoo or Skype. You can even host a Google+ Hangout with video.
4. Establish a new rule: no agenda, no meeting. Ever walked into a meeting and wondered why on earth you were even there? Ever been dragged along for the ride in a meeting you really didn’t have to be in? Agendas keep you from wasting your time and everyone else’s by stating clear meeting objectives. These objectives help determine who’s really needed in the meeting and keep conversations on track.
5. Ditch your devices, and take pen and paper only. Smartphones, iPads, laptops—they’re all meeting killers. I don’t care if your ace salesperson says he types faster than he writes. Eliminate the devices, and make your meetings pen-and-paper-only ones. Sure, your team might lose a valuable half-hour spent scouring their Facebook news feeds and reviewing daily deal emails, but you might actually accomplish something in your meetings.
6. Start on time. I can count the meetings I’ve both held and attended that have started on time on one hand. But starting on time is the most respectful thing you can do for everyone’s time. And sure, life interferes on occasion and folks will be late. But knowing that your meetings actually start on time is incentive in itself to show up, stand up and get on with the day, since folks know you’re not going to waste their time.
7. End on time—no excuses. Meetings that run long can totally mess with the calendars of everyone in that meeting. Do you really want to be the reason other people can’t have the productive day they each have planned? Set a timer to go off five minutes prior to when the meeting is supposed to end. That’s your signal to wrap it up and get to your action items.
8. Create a list of action items. A meeting without action items isn’t a meeting—it’s an update session, and remember, those can be done via email. The last two minutes of each meeting should be a time to assign and/or review the action items resulting from the meeting. Assign responsibility, deliverables and due dates. If you’re feeling really gung-ho, assign someone to create tasks on a checklist with each action item on it. There’s nothing sweeter than getting an email update that someone has completed an action item. Ah, progress!
9. Avoid meetings. Seriously, do you really need to have a meeting? Sometimes scheduling a meeting is our knee-jerk reaction to trying to solve a problem. And not all meetings are bad—many well-run meetings are highly productive and make the most of group dynamics. But before you put one more meeting on the calendar (yours or anyone else’s), ask yourself this: Is a meeting the best way to handle this matter? Often, an email—or even a person-to-person call—can get just what’s needed done and without pulling multiple calendars into the mix.
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