A day doesn’t go by where I don’t have to attend a meeting. On paper, a meeting is a simple, but brilliant concept. You meet with one or more individuals to discuss a specific topic of interest, everyone provides input on their area of expertise and an outcome is derived from this meeting of minds. Simple? Well, not quite.
There have been many times and I am sure you can relate to this scenario, where I have walked out of a meeting more confused and baffled on the way forward with a specific project, than when I initially went into the meeting. I am sure I’m not the first confused and frustrated individual and I know I will most definitely not be the last.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way that may help prevent some of that “meeting frustration” you could experience in the future.
- Make sure everyone is in the room – virtually and physically. This means no access to electronic devises, which WILL distract people in the meeting. Oddly enough, it seems acceptable these days to be holding a separate meeting on your cellphone or tablet, whilst physically being in a meeting. What is that? I believe that if everyone present in a meeting is “present” on the discussion topics at hand there would be way less confusion and time wastage.
- Limit the meeting time – There is always a starting time to a meeting, why not have a pre-confirmed end time? It’s bizarre, but when we are not given a time frame we tend to waft and lose focus, we go off-topic and become distracted and waste precious time. If we are aware of a deadline we tend to treat the meeting like an secret undercover government operation. We know we need to get in, secure the mission objective and get out with no casualties, within a specific time limit. So at your next meet up, hand out the camouflage paint and remind everyone of the meeting time frame and watch how people snap into focus-mode.
- Use meeting agendas and stick to them! – If you are the meeting organiser don’t just provide a meeting subject line, but attach a simple bullet point agenda of discussion points to your meeting invitations. By providing this additional information people are given time to prepare their notes as well as their mindsets. Most importantly the meeting will begin with a purpose. When facilitating a meeting stick to the agenda points and get to the point. This way people will get to know your meeting facilitation style and will appreciate your focused attention. If you have been invited to attend a meeting and they haven’t provided an agenda, ask for one.
- Make people accountable – One of the biggest pet-peeves about meetings is the lack of action and/or accountability after a meeting. What’s the point of having a meeting if nothing gets actioned afterwards? As the facilitator take notes and assign people and deadline dates to tasks. Placing a name and a deadline to an action, personalises the task and makes people accountable. Generally people don’t like to be in the spotlight for non-performance, this could be quite awkward for them.
- Take action – After a full day of meetings the biggest ask for some people is to actually action issues that arose within the meet up. If this is an issue for your team, block off 10 to 15mins in the meeting for people to action or start actioning their tasks. Here you are giving them time and also forcing them to action something. They don’t leave the meeting feeling overwhelmed, but they leave feeling as though they have accomplished something.
- Give yourself time – We think we are being productive if we schedule meetings and activities back to back. We run from one agenda to another, never giving ourselves time to reflect and process the information discussed. The next time you schedule a meeting, make sure there is enough time afterwards to process the outcome. Hang up your roller-skates, grab a cup of tea and reflect.