Have you ever attended a bad meeting? If your answer is no, you probably haven’t been to enough meetings. Learning how to lead a good meeting will increase your chances of being successful. It could be a 15-minute meeting, or a daylong meeting, there are a few basic things you can do to ensure you maximize your and your attendees’ time.
- Insanity: You are 15 minutes into the meeting and you have no idea what it is about. Remedy: Clearly outline the agenda in advance and again at beginning of the meeting.
- Insanity: No one knows where the meeting will take place. Remedy: Indicate in the invite where the meeting will take place.
- Insanity: The technical equipment is not working and everyone spends the time chit chatting while “IT’ fixes it. Great if you want to “catch up” not so great if you have a business objective to achieve. Remedy: Test the technology or equipment in advance.
- Insanity: The leader wants your feedback on some materials they literally sent 30 seconds before the meeting. Remedy: Define what you will need/expect from each person ahead of time.
- Insanity: The leader dominates the whole meeting and you are thinking to yourself; “Why didn’t they just type a memo and say THIS IS HOW IT IS?” and skip the whole meeting. Remedy: Don’t talk the whole time and dominate the meeting – otherwise just schedule a meeting by yourself and make your own decisions. At the very least you will save everyone else’s time.
- Insanity: It is 15 minutes past the start time of the meeting and you are still waiting for everyone to get there to get things started. Remedy: Practice lucid scheduling and stick to it – START ON TIME, END ON TIME (P.S. Don’t schedule marathon meetings back-to-back and expect people will be on time).
- Insanity: Three or four topics are crammed into a single meeting. What would have been four 30-minute meetings becomes one giant 2-hour meeting. And everyone is invited! People who are needed for just 15 minutes of that two hours spend the whole time thinking to themselves “why am I here?” while just sitting there in a glazed trance. Or worse, they speak up on everything (whether it is valuable or not) just to justify their attendance. Remedy: What about outlining an agenda based on what needs to be covered or resolved and THEN deciding how much time should be allocated to cover those topics. Then determine WHO can do the most to contribute. Genius right? Break things into two meetings (or more) when it makes sense. Establish specific to-do actions and assign to specific people. Set next steps and follow up.
- Insanity: The meeting gets off track and by the end you know what everyone’s plans are for the weekend, yet you have no idea how to solve the initial issue at hand. Remedy: Be prepared to keep the group on track and put things in the “parking lot” for future discussion. Bring it to the group’s attention when you are getting close to end time – agree on what needs to be wrapped up before the end.
Bottom line is this: If you have 5 people in a 60-minute meeting that’s five hours of time. The five hours is merely just the tangible time. It is also five hours of time that is NOT spent on something else. If you are going to be a meeting leader, it is your job to make that time valuable for you, the other people and the organization as a whole.
Start approaching meetings with a sense of consciousness. Even if you are (or think you are) a good leader, try tweaking one thing to make it more effective. I guarantee if you accomplish all that you set to-do and wrap-up early, people will be forever indebted – or at the very least happy to have ten minutes of their life back.
Jacqueline Rosales is the Chief Operating Officer at SoapBoxSample, an online research firm based in Van Nuys, California. Her career includes executive assignments with Luth Research and Directions in Research. Ms. Rosales holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Oregon. Read her blog here, and follow her on Twitter.