We spend a lot of time in meetings, but sometimes they can be a black hole of wasted time. From presentations to team meetings to weekly catch-ups, they all serve an important purpose, but sometimes you’re just going through the motions rather than getting anything done. But there’s no need to let your meetings lose purpose in the chaos of your workday. Here are some guidelines you can follow in order to make the most of your meeting time and not fall victim to time traps:
1. First, if your purpose doesn’t require a physical meeting, then don’t have one! This goes for conference calls and video conferences as well. If your goals can be achieved with an email exchange or a one-on-one call, then that should be the preferred method of execution. Of course, many situations do call for a physical meeting in order to gain progress, so on to guideline number two…
2. Set a distinct block of time for your meeting that will be sufficient to get required tasks done. The catch? It’s usually shorter than you think. By setting a time limit, you ensure that the meeting doesn’t drag on or waste valuable time during your workday. It also sets a good pace for participants to get through their content and wrap up accordingly.
3. General meetings can really meander and end up achieving nothing concrete. Even in general meetings, make sure to have a set focus for discussions. Everyone should be made aware of the focus topic before the meeting time, in order to allow participants to prepare, maximizing the progress to be made in an efficient amount of time.
4. The meeting host should distribute an agenda to participants before or at the beginning of the meeting. Providing this sort of structure will give order to the meeting and help participants know when it is appropriate to pitch in. For example:
9:00-9:05am – Review previous meeting briefly.
9:05-9:25am – List the topics/progress to be discussed today and by whom.
9:25-9:30am – Delegate next steps/assignments.
5. If there are unanswered questions that cannot be addressed immediately, or a brainstorming session has started but is getting nowhere, table the topic for later discussion. You can’t force creativity or innovation, so if participants need more time, there’s no need to drag out the meeting. However, these questions/topics should be mentioned in the agenda so people can be prepared prior to the meeting and potentially bring answers to the table.
6. Looking to catch up from the weekend? Or recap last night’s happy hour? Of course, there is always a social factor when getting a group of people together, especially if you partake in a weekly meeting or catch-up. You don’t want to rob people of this at your business. Therefore, it’s beneficial to allow for a 5-minute chat at the beginning or end of the meeting to get your social fill in a time sensitive manner.
7. Follow-up afterwards with meeting notes and next steps/assignments via email. This is an effective way to make the content of your meeting concrete. Once the meeting is over, it can become “out of sight, out mind” for some people. Make sure that this is not the case! It also prevents people from asking unnecessary questions or clarifications after the meeting, saving you more of your precious work time.
Meetings are a great way to collaborate and stay on track with team members, clients, and superiors. However, they can quickly become a burden if not executed properly. As a leader, the above guidelines are good tips to consider in order to ensure your meetings are as efficient and beneficial as possible. Don’t let your meetings rule you; rule your meetings!
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