Ever heard the expression two heads are better than one? Well, it’s true! Effective team meetings happen because you bring people together to discuss an idea or problem and the different perspectives and experiences of everyone in the room can help tackle the problem from multiple angles. Though no matter the intention or goal, sometimes meetings are ineffective. The following will act as a guide for all of those people who suffer from awful meeting aliment. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all sat in those meetings counting down the seconds, hoping something – anything – would happen to liven up the hour you’ve spent listening to some humdrum topic going around and around in circles. I once sat at the back of a hall listening to four men trying to run a meeting. There was no order, there was no clear agenda, there was nothing. It was chaos. The meeting went on for three hours and there was still no plan of action for the future when they closed the meeting. It was the biggest waste of time I’ve ever spent! I long for those three hours of my life back. For this reason, I am determined to help you not lose hours too. People often forget what meetings are all about. My idea of a good business meeting consists of a few essential key people discussing an idea with a view to creating a plan of action for the future. The bringing together of multiple ideas and perspectives can result in a more well-rounded and sophisticated strategy.
1. Plan Plan Plan First things first, if you want to hold a meeting you’ve got to sit down and write out what it is you want to discuss and what you want to resolve (i.e. what’s the purpose of the meeting). Planning and preparation goes a long way towards effective meetings. Make out a checklist for the meeting, including all of the topics you want to discuss and how much time you need to spend on each
2. Communicate the agenda to your colleagues Email or message your colleagues telling them about the meeting. Issue the obvious details, such as dates, times, and location, then attach the proposed agenda and let them know what it is you want them to prepare for the meeting. I recommend distributing this information at least two days in advance of the meeting to ensure everyone can be ready.
3. Early meetings, early in the week Don’t be one of those people who have a Monday morning 9am or Friday evening 5pm meeting! Do you want everyone to hate you? No? Ok, good! Monday morning at 9am people’s minds are still in sleep mode. Friday evening will get you zero concentration and zero creativity. However, 10am meetings are best, giving people time to get their coffee and to read over their notes for the meeting. The 10am meeting start time pretty much ensures that nobody will be late for your meeting either! I suggest meetings should only be on early in the week: Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. This means that the content of the meeting will be on people’s minds all week and they’ll be able to hit the ground running straight away. Friday evening meetings agendas are often forgotten about come Monday morning! Thursday doesn’t really give people enough time to get the job done. Early meetings, early in the week – that’s the key for premium productivity!
4. Short meetings are the way to go! Ideally, all meetings should be under 30 minutes. Have a timeframe for how long the meeting should go on for, determine and stick to a specific start and end time, and account for the time you suspect it will take the group to discuss each topic and implement it. Meetings are glorified brainstorming sessions with built-in decision-making moments. Although they are very important, don’t waste unnecessary time on them!
5. Start as you mean to go on The tone that is set at the beginning of the meeting will be carried out throughout. Always be positive! Focus on solutions not problems. Don’t get bogged down or panicked. This will lead to negative, rushed, and ineffective meetings. Always begin and end on a positive note!
6. Carefully chosen space Make sure the meeting is held in a suitable environment appropriate for the size and needs of the group. Having a mix of visual aids keeps things interesting. I would always encourage having a TV screen available to communicate any videos/ pictures, etc, required for the meeting. Anything that inspires kinetic energy is great! Having things like white boards, where people can communicate their ideas, gives an air of accomplishment because ideas and plans are being written down and the project is effectively started. Get rid of the tables! What purpose do they really have? For short meetings (5-10 minutes), what about standing meetings? No chairs either (except for those needing to be off their feet)! Whatever it is, standing people feel more productive. There is less dilly dallying when people are standing! Obviously, it would be uncomfortable to be standing for 30 minutes, so for longer meetings have comfy chairs. We use bean bag chairs here at Teamwork.com.
7. If you’re in charge, for goodness sake chair!
Lead the meeting. Allow people to express their opinions but know when to stop the rambling and arguing. Make sure everyone voices an idea – don’t accept one or two loud voices shadowing others. Someone has to take charge to make sure all of the important topics are discussed, all relevant ideas are heard, and time is not being wasted. Have a checklist made of what you want to achieve in a given time frame during the meeting and check things off over the course of the meeting. Time management and people management. This is your job as chair! The purpose of meetings is to share ideas and collaborate, ask questions, and find solutions. Your job as chair is to communicate effectively to the team members what their purpose is going forward. Tasks and purposes can often be lost in translation over email, and a lot of the time the best plans come from a team discussion as it pulls together the best of everyone’s ideas. Time management is one of the main reasons why so many meetings are so abominably awful and boring, so if you take anything from this blog be prepared and plan your meetings! If you were to liven up your next meeting in one way, what would that be? Not trying to tell you how to think, but one word…piñata.