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Dec 16

Most people would argue that they attend too many meetings, which interfere with productivity and getting things done.  However, if managed properly, effective meetings can be the most productive way of getting the right people in a room to discuss, agree and create action plans to actually move our business forward.

But perhaps we need to be more challenging to meeting organisers when it comes to expectations and outcomes and enforce better “meeting etiquette”.

If you are organising a meeting, consider taking these measures to ensure you are making the most of people’s time:

  • Before even setting up a meeting, just sense check that a meeting is the best format (versus email) to meet your objectives, what are you trying to achieve and who needs to be involved?
  • Consider “stand up” meetings which should only last 15-20 minutes in duration and are primarily a method for quick information sharing within teams – the idea is that they will be more punchy and unlikely to overrun if attendees are not sitting too comfortably in a chair!
  • Carefully select who should attend your meeting – why do you need them there, is it going to be a good use of their time? Remember a one hour meeting with ten attendees equates to 10 hours of time – that’s more than a day’s work!
  • Set up meetings using an electronic diary system (this will enable you to ensure your invitees are available to attend and adjusts to time zones); book the meeting room as well as the individuals.
  • If you are organising a meeting over a lunch break – be courteous enough to organise lunch – trying to get productivity from hungry people is not easy!
  • Clearly state within your meeting request the following information:
    • Meeting Objective – what are you trying to achieve from the meeting?
    • A timed Agenda – what will be covered and time allocation to each topic
    • Expectations / preparation work required by attendees.
  • When holding the meeting, follow the agenda to the agreed time plan – if it is difficult to follow to the agreed time, get agreement from the attendees to over-run or re-arrange an alternative time to cover off remaining agenda points.
  • Take minutes / action points and send to the recipients and any other relevant parties within 3 working days of the meeting – an easy way to do this is to type up action points during the meeting and then they can be sent almost immediately afterwards.
  • Any subsequent follow up meetings should start with a recap of the action points to check tasks are on schedule.

If you are being invited to a meeting, you too have a responsibility to ensure the meeting is worthwhile and a good use of business time, so consider the following:

  • Do you think you are the best placed person to attend the said meeting, if not who should be in your place – have that discussion with the meeting organiser prior to accepting.
  • Be prepared – if you have been set “pre-work” then ensure you tackle it in advance of the meeting.
  • Challenge meeting organisers to run the meeting to time and if topics start to digress, feel empowered to raise that as a concern and get the meeting back on track.

Try following some of these productivity pointers and challenge yourself and your colleagues to make meetings more effective – face to face communication is without doubt the best way to involve others but we should all be respectful of each other’s time and other priorities.