02 Feb 2015 How to boost the productivity of meetings
Can you improve the productivity of meetings you lead? I believe it is certainly possible. In fact, I’d say it is imperative that you strive to do so.
Someone once described the best meeting as…… “a meeting where two people are to attend and one is always absent…” or another one I came across; ““A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” Unknown
It is not often that you hear people saying “That last meeting was great!” Most often it is a case of:
- “that meeting was a complete waste of time…”
- “That meeting was totally ineffective…”
- “Not another bloody meeting…”
Meetings are here to stay!
Nonetheless, despite all the bad press, there is little doubt meetings are here to stay.
Why is it that if meetings are so despised, they continue to flourish? Surely we cannot be so stupid as to continue to keep running unproductive meetings that everyone despises?
The fact is of course that meetings will continue to be an important way we get work done because they are very useful. In fact, they are more than useful; they are actually the most effective way to get some decisions made or to communicate a message to a group of people. There are a number of reasons that meetings are here to stay.
Advantages of Meetings
Consider this list of advantages; Meetings….
- Keep people informed and up to date
- Provide a chance for all to be heard
- Allow contact with people in different parts/functional areas of the organisation
- Can broaden experience and act as a learning opportunity
- Provides visibility and an opportunity for personal public relations
- Often create opportunity for involvement with others
- May have a social aspect. Ie Team Building
And there are possibly others too. But the point is well made I think that an effective meeting can be a great productivity tool.
Patrick Lencioni in his book, “Death By Meeting”, comments; “Whilst it is true that much of the time we spend in meetings is largely wasted, the solution is not to stop having meetings, but rather to make them better. Because when properly utilised, meetings are actually time savers”.
Save Time – Have a Meeting!
Meetings a time saver….. Really? Now there is a novel idea! How can a meeting be a “Time Saver”?
Lencioni makes the point that “good” meetings provide opportunities to improve execution by accelerating decision-making and eliminating the need to revisit issues again and again.
He uses the term “sneaker Time” to describe the activities that managers spend sending email, leaving voice mail, roaming the halls etc to clarify issues that could have been dealt with more effectively in a meeting. When you stop and think about it, this is so true.
So there you have it, a productive meeting can actually save time by reducing the amount of time it takes to get work done, decisions made etc etc. Clearly then, if we are going to save time by having meetings, they better be productive and effective because meetings cost time and money.
There are many points we could cover here to talk about ways to improve the productivity of meetings you lead, but in this blog post, I want to give just an overview of the things you might consider in your preparation and planning.
We cover all of these in much more detail in our Leading Productive Meetings Training.
Tips to Improve the Productivity of your Meetings
Do your meeting preparation
Good meetings don’t just happen! They are good meetings because someone, usually the leader/facilitator, has done his/her preparation and beforehand.
The more planning and preparation put in before the meeting, the more productive the meeting usually is.
The preparation you need to do can vary of course, but a good place to start is to clearly identify the objectives of the meeting.
Identify the meeting objectives
To improve the productivity of meetings you lead, the question you need to ask is this; “What is it you actually want to achieve from the meeting”? In fact, you should ask this question for every Agenda item in your meeting. “What do I want to achieve from this Agenda item?” Once you are clear on this, it can make your meeting planning easier. You can then decide on who needs to attend. You can plan for any activities or presentations you may need to use and you can decide upon timing etc.
Let people know the meeting objectives
Another good idea is to clearly state the meeting objectives up front to all attendees. It should be highlighted in the Agenda of course, but why not also restate the objectives at the commencement of the meeting or the particular Agenda Item in question? Doing this helps people focus in on the topic immediately. If the discussion gets off track, you can use the stated objectives to call everyone back and get on topic.
Anyway, a lot more could be said of course, but I think this is a good start. Hopefully this little article gives you a few ideas you can take away and immediately improve the productivity of meetings you are leading.
Geoff Prior – Lingford Consulting, February 2015
Workload & Email Management Training/Coaching. MBTI Consultant