Yes, you can!
No, I wouldn’t lie to you- and I hate meetings as much as the next person. It’s not just because I express myself in writing (hello, I’m a blogger). But I find the most meetings drag and eat up precious time for very little payoff.
Tell me you have been there before.
It honestly doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re holding a meeting that has an actual purpose you’re already on the right track to becoming more productive. Having a meeting for the sake of meeting that (heaven forbid) doesn’t have an agenda is like taking a huge chunk of your day and flushing it down the toilet, if you were able to do such a thing. If there’s no clear outcome or advantage to having a meeting, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t need to have one.
Sometimes meetings are a necessary evil in order to better communicate with staff or collaborate with colleagues on a joint project. In that case, try to minimize the number of attendees by limiting it only to the other people that need to be involved (in some cases, scheduling a check-in phone call or email with any other secondary employees, staff, or other collaborators can suffice). Designate a speaker and/or meeting leader to cut down on interruptions, and make sure there is a designated note-taker responsible for crystallizing any important ideas discussed who can follow-up with the appropriate people afterwards to make sure everyone is on the right track.
Surprisingly enough, the key to an efficient business meeting is to make sure that it’s just that- efficient. That means no false starts, no interruptions and a schedule that stays on track. It may be a good idea to schedule extra time at the beginning to allow for stragglers and getting everyone organized and seated. Once your meeting is ready to start, make sure everyone’s attention is focused on the common goal. No cell phones, headsets, tables, walk-ins, or drop-bys. For larger groups, or meetings that require a brainstorming or creative component, it may be helpful to employ a timer to make sure in-depth discussions don’t completely take over from getting work done.
What happens after a meeting is almost just as important as what happens during a meeting- if there’s no clear agenda or outcome, there’s no immediate way forward to getting things done. Make sure this doesn’t happen by taking the extra time at the conclusion of your meeting to delegate responsibilities, assign tasks and set clear expectations as what the next actions are for every single person in attendance. Ill-defined work is kind of like doing no work at all- most of everyone’s time will be spent trying to figure out what needs to be done, and who should take on each of these tasks. This can result in lower productivity, missed details, late deadlines, poor morale- and could lead to more serious consequences for you and your team, such as bad performance reviews or even financial losses.
Everyone’s on the same team here- most of us don’t like meetings. Each of us had our own working style and our own set of responsibilities that we have to prioritize throughout the day and meetings often upset this balance, or become unnecessary obstacles to getting actual work done. But when meetings are unavoidable there’s no reason not to make them as quick and painless as possible.
Yes, you can!
Does anyone else out there start shuddering when a meeting is announced? Me too. Teach me the ways you survive them by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org or commenting below.