Maximizing Meetings

How much time do you spend attending meetings? Most likely, more than you’d like! I hear people ask when the work is supposed to get done if all we do is attend meetings. There are all-employee meetings, staff meetings, departmental meetings, task force meetings, and sometimes we have meetings to plan the next meeting! Meetings are out of control!

Here are nine quick tips for more productive meetings:

1. Develop organizational meeting ground rules such as “we start and end meetings on time” “everyone has an equal voice in meetings” “one person speaks at a time”—post the ground rules in every conference room. Then, follow your meeting ground rules!
2. Before you call a meeting, determine if it is needed. Could the information be shared via email or do you really need people there in person?
3. Invite the right people to the meeting. If someone isn’t directly involved in the decision or doesn’t have information no one else has, consider not including them but let them know why. Odds are they will be thrilled to have extra time available!
4. Always have an agenda and assign times to each topic. Send the agenda out ahead of time so people can come prepared. Have a timekeeper to help the facilitator stay on schedule. The agenda should start with the most important topic to allow for maximum time available (and this should get people there on time!)
5. Your agenda should include reviewing the action items from the last meeting. to ensure things get done. One of your ground rules might be that an action item can’t be carried over more than twice.
6. If you as the leader want to actively participate in the meeting, consider asking someone else to be the facilitator. The facilitator keeps the meeting on target and ensures that everyone participates. It is very hard to participate and facilitate.
7. Assign someone to be the note taker who will get the minutes out within the agreed upon time (48 hours after the meeting or whatever works for your organization and is outlined in your meeting ground rules).
8. The facilitator should ensure everyone participates. If you’ve done your job and you have the right people at the meeting, everyone should be ready to participate but remember, introverts don’t tend to speak up unless asked or they’ve had time to process the information. Don’t over look them—they may have the solution you’ve been looking for!
9. Try some new kinds of meetings. Consider the stand up meeting which tend to be productive and quick. These don’t work if you have a long agenda but can be very effective when there is one decision to be made.

Consider a “walking meeting”. Let people know ahead of time that the meeting will be held on a walk around your building or in your neighborhood. Remind people to dress appropriately for the weather. Walking is healthy and research at Stanford University reported that people can be 60% more creative when in a walking meeting. The ideal number of participants is 2-4 people so that you listen to each other’s ideas. If you’re going to need a white board, a walking meeting isn’t for you but if not, consider the benefits of helping your employees who sit a lot, get out and do something that is good for them! This trend is so popular that there is a Ted Talk on walking meetings! Check it out!

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