Effective Meetings: The Top Three Challenges

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    “I hate meetings…they are a waste of time. We just talk, talk, talk…nothings gets done!”

    Are you in charge of leading meetings? If so, what are your meetings like? Does real work gets done or is it just talk, talk, talk?

    Here are the top three questions that I’m frequently asked by team and project leaders. They involve running productive meetings, keeping them on track and getting work done.

    1. “Do you have any tips on encouraging people to be on time to meetings?”
    The general rule is to start the meeting on time. This gives the message to people that you are serious about time and meeting management. If you start late, it penalizes the people who make an effort to be there at the designated time. Also, if someone only needs to attend for one particular segment of the meeting, let that person know when that agenda item will be dealt with. Then he doesn’t have to attend the entire meeting, just the part for his input.

    Also, research suggests that setting a meeting time that is NOT on the hour or half hour is more likely to result in people arriving on time. For example, consider starting your meeting at 2:10 P.M. rather than 2:00 P.M. It certainly should get the attention of the participants.

    2. “We hold regular staff meetings but often we spend a great deal of time on nothing at all. What can we do to be more productive?”
    Meetings that occur every week, or on some other regular basis, can be useful provided that there is a clear, important purpose for the meetings. However, this is often not the case. Weekly staff meetings tend to occur simply because that’s the way it’s always been. So if you want to change that here are some things you can do.

    Make sure first they are really necessary. Examine the agenda and ask: “Are each of these items essential or can it be handled outside the meeting? Have variety in your staff meetings. Occasionally bring in a speaker, have the meeting off-site, have a celebration, use a film clip or article to generate discussion. Put your creativity hat on and make the meetings interesting.

    3. “No matter what we do, our meetings go on and on and on. What can we do to shorten our meeting?”
    First, always have an agenda and stick to it. Each agenda item should have a time limit. If you are going over the set time for that item, the group has several choices:

    • The item can be tabled to the next meeting
    • If an agenda item is multi-faceted, then an option is to focus on one or two key aspects and table the remaining parts until the next meeting.
    • The group can decide that this item needs to be dealt with now and extends the time knowing that other items on the agenda may get short-changed or postponed.

    Second, it’s important to have ground rules for discussion. For example, some one can “hold the floor” on a single topic or item for a certain time limit that makes sense…two minutes, five minutes and enforce it with a timer. Or someone can speak on any given topic or item two times and that’s it. This prevents talking the topic to death.

    Management Success Tip:

    As a meeting leader, you wear different hats. You’re the traffic cop making sure everyone gets a turn to speak and controlling the talkers; the director managing the agenda and time so that things get done; the diplomat dealing with inevitable differences of opinion; and the host providing treats, a good atmosphere and occassional fun.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?