Hmm, not something you hear that often sadly! Meetings; are they single-handedly responsible for reducing productivity or a valuable investment in your business? Probably, meetings are both; sometimes they can be the biggest investment you can make and at other times you may have been better giving everyone an extra hour for lunch. If they lunch together that can actually be a very productive way of ditching the meeting. Here are a few other tricks to make those meetings a lot more productive.
Don't Hold Them
Or, not so many. Technology makes a big difference here. Conference calls can save many wasted hours, hotel bills and general frustration. If meetings can be held effectively in a virtual environment then pick that environment. Would an email, circulated to all the right people, actually avoid the need for the meeting? In many cases the answer is yes. Do you have to have the meeting today? If you can combine a number of issues for one big meeting you might find that the time is better spent.
Write an Agenda
You do this already, obviously? If not then learn to and learn to do it well in advance. Don't forget to circulate the agenda and ask for input on it. Clarity of purpose in meetings really can save a lot of time. A list of agenda points helps to keep things moving; it's very easy for a meeting to get stuck on one point, without a clear agenda it may well stick there right till the bitter end and you'll need to schedule in more time wasting, sorry another meeting, to catch up.
Yes, I'm More Than Happy to go Over That Again…For the Fifth Time!
If somebody hasn't turned up for the meeting for whatever reason-their problem, in all of the above: if they miss something important, also their problem. Don't wait for people to arrive when you've clearly stated the time that the meeting is due to start. A raised eyebrow will be enough of a greeting when they do arrive, no need to go over old ground for one person, they can catch up on their own time.
Timing is Everything
On the same principle as above show the same respect for other people's time as you expect them to show you; finish on time. Schedule the most important stuff for the beginning of the meeting; if you run out of time you should have covered the important points. Open ended, or interminable, meetings are the real culprits when it comes to wasted time and falls in productivity. Small business accounting software such as Intuit QuickBooks doesn't normally allow you to input values to prove how much this has cost you, but if it did, you'd get a shock.
Take a Minute, Literally
Note taking and minute production are very old features of meetings and probably explain the premise of cave paintings, despite what archaeologists may think. To get the most productivity out of the meeting itself minutes will act as a reminder to participants about what their own next steps were meant to be. It'll improve the chances of getting those steps actually made.
The Guest List
Get the right people at the right meetings. This sounds simple but it is often the reason that meetings end up being unproductive. People who don't need to be there will most likely spend more time updating their status on Facebook, while occasionally asking you to repeat yourself. They should be somewhere else, preferably earning their salary. Be sure that meetings are addressed to relevant people.
Ugh; power points. They take up your time to develop and they're not that useful. Power points are ok at some meetings, usually of the training variety. Otherwise try to limit the amount of time spent on them before, during and after the meeting. Mostly a flipchart and a bit of freehand will do if you really can't get your message across in words alone.
It's never a one way street, is it? If you've organised the meeting and set the topics, or at least gathered them, you'll probably have a fair bit to say. However, getting other perspectives is essential during meetings. Try to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to have some input. Some attendees are more comfortable than others, so keep an eye on who is and who isn't contributing and try to draw out opinions from the less forthcoming members.
To some extent meetings will always be unproductive but in well planned, well run and well-timed meetings big ideas can be born and big problems solved.