The most common problems I have run into stems from the meeting organizers or leaders themselves. Attendees show up, often late; the ‘leader’ wanders down a mystery list of topics they want to discuss; off-topic discussions are allowed to run too long; and then having run over the scheduled time frame, they end with no clear outcome. Sound familiar?
This topic is hardly original yet the very fact these situations continue likely stems from one reason: those organizing meetings weren’t taught any better.
So, here are 5 basic guidelines to follow:
- Limit Attendance
Only invite participates you believe are needed. Avoid guests, attendees subordinates, and other ‘extras.’ They serve only to distract and defocus the meeting. It is also a very real cost to the business.
- Avoid Standing Meetings
No, not the physically ‘standing’ type. Rather the regular recurring staff or project meetings simply because they happen ‘every Monday.’ Cancel a meeti9ng if there’s really no need for everyone to convene.
- Got Agenda?
Many people feel having an agenda is ‘corny,’ unnecessary. Agenda’s are important. Sent out before the meeting (day before a staff meeting perhaps), they attendees know what’s expected of them and to prepare.
- Action items
There’s a reason for the meeting, like getting something done. Right? Then you should make sure to capture those reasons or actions, ensure they’re assigned to someone in attendance, with confirmed delivery times. Action Items help drive engagement…and that’s why you’re there anyway…to get something done.
Set meeting duration to however long you really think it needs to be; then consider trimming it by another ten minutes. Do not schedule hour-long meetings because your calendaring too uses :30 or :60 default intervals.
There are no absolutes in leading and managing meetings. Sure, there are plenty of guidelines and experience helps a lot. For instance, a popular belief may be that ‘staff meetings last an hour.’ Why ‘should’ they be any particular length?
Having unnecessary meeting attendees carries a very real cost. Just multiply their ‘hourly rate’ by the amount of time they could, should, have been doing something else.
Each leader needs to look at what’s on their agenda (don’t have one, then why have the meeting?) and assess time required. Yes, sometimes we need to block out time chunks just to ensure required attendees’ calendars are kept free for the meeting. It does not mean the meeting needs to run the clock out (ever been to a meeting that ends early, only to hear, “We’re done :10 early, anybody have something else to…?)
Team engagement and successful outcomes are best achieved with some preparation and a dash of discipline.