Have you ever noticed that most meetings are a waste of time? Not just the idle chatter, or the time spent waiting for attendees who are late, but the fact that they take longer than 20 minutes and fill your day with more noise, little of it relevant to your focus?
Here’s a handy guide for how to cure the Boardroom Blues, especially if you’re the one leading the meeting!
Meetings shouldn’t be planned for more than 20 minutes.
Meetings should be used for conversations that advance results, for decision-making, and for relationship-building.
They should not be used for disseminating information that can easily be disseminated in another medium.
They should not be used for report-outs of information that is not relevant to all parties in the room.
The only people invited to a meeting should be those who have some value to add or something to contribute to the agenda and purpose of the meeting.
What to do before, during and after a meeting
Before the meeting, make sure the topics on the agenda are going to be relevant to everyone in the room. Determine the agenda ahead of time and send it to everyone. Invite them to add or clarify something to the agenda so that the attendees have some say in what is going to be talked about. They should be part of the decision making.
During the meeting, engage your audience and stay away from “death by PowerPoint.” I don’t think it’s effectively used the way most use it. It needs to engage the right side of the brain to be more effective. You don’t just want to put up visual data. Maybe add an image with it to back up what you are saying. The key is balancing the left and right side of the brain to keep your audience intrigued.
To make sure there is order in your meeting you can use a Native American tradition which is a “talking stick.” This is a decorative stick and whoever has the stick gets to talk. Sometimes, the introverts get drowned out by the extroverts, so a stick helps balance this out. Some of the best ideas come from the quietest person because they’re integrating everyone’s ideas and making it all come together. Remember the basic rule is to respect everyone in a meeting.
After the meeting there should be action items and timelines of who’s going to do what by when that will help determine the bigger picture. When a meeting is done really well you don’t have to allocate positions. People will start volunteering for jobs as the energy of the room is moved in the direction of what the goal is. It’s a matter of knowing who is going to do what when.
Following up is key after jobs are allocated. If someone signs up to do something it’s up to them to follow through with their assignment and if they haven’t completed their task, what’s their counteroffer?
90 percent of meetings don’t have to happen. But, engaging your audience is easy of they have a compelling reason for being there and have had the opportunity to contribute to the agenda ahead of time. It all goes back to respecting their time and making sure everyone understands the focus of the meeting. Your attendees only check out if they’re accustomed to hour-long meetings and they’ve trained themselves to only listen to what applies to them. Keep the meetings short and to the point to be most effective.
1. STICK TO THE AGENDA, ESPECIALLY IF OTHER PEOPLE HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR AGENDA
2. LISTEN TO YOUR PEOPLE, BE MORE OF A LISTENER THAN A SPEAKER
3. LOOK FOR WAYS TO ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY MEETINGS
4. CHECK TO SEE THAT YOU CAN BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHER PEOPLES TIME
5. BE CLEAR IN YOUR COMMUNICATION
6. BE PURPOSEFUL AND THOUGHTFUL
7. ACKNOWLEDGE AND RECOGNIZE PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING A GOOD JOB
8. HONOR THE TIME OF THE MEETING IF YOU COME PLAN A 1 HOUR MEETING AND YOU’RE FINISHED IN 30 MINUTES, DON’T TRY TO FILL UP TIME. END THE MEETING. DON’T EXPECT PEOPLE TO STAY LATE IF THE MEETING IS PLANNED FOR 20 MINUTES AND RUNS OVER, HONOR THEIR TIME AS IMPORTANT.
1. HOG ALL THE AIRTIME YOURSELF
2. REPRIMAND ANYONE IN FRONT OF THE GROUP
3. USE YOUR BLACKBERRY OR GET ON TWITTER
4. PLAN A USELESS MEETING, USE AN E-MAIL TO GET THE INFORMATION TO EVERYONE INSTEAD
5. DO THE OPPOSITE OF ANY OF THE DO’S LISTED ABOVE
A great resource for your consideration is the book written by my colleague, Steve Davis.
His book is called This Meeting Sux: 12 Acts of Courage to Change Meetings for Good, and you can download the first three chapters here for free: