Let’s face it, meetings get a bad rap. They can be time wasters, run too long, lack focus, and be poorly run. Sometimes when we step into that conference room, all starts well, but before long we feel like we are wandering down a gloomy rabbit hole of unrelatedness that makes us pine for our latest project and our email inbox.
But meetings aren’t supposed to be that way. In fact, they can (and should!) be a productive use of time and a way to inspire teams and move initiatives forward.
Here are some tips for becoming the guru of meetings for your organization
Make sure everybody who is invited needs to be there
This is not a cocktail party– it’s a meeting. Those who don’t need to be there aren’t going to feel bad if they aren’t invited. When I am invited to a meeting, if I’m not sure why I’m invited, I’ll approach the meeting organizer to find out what the meeting is about and determine whether or not my presence is going to add value. If all you need from me is an answer to a question, I’d rather just shoot you off an email and get back to work.
If you schedule a meeting, you own it
That means from start to finish. You have to get the right people there, send out a timely invitation (with the meeting objective/purpose included), have a proper agenda, keep things moving during the meeting, table items when people get off track, and provide a follow-up summary and list of action items within 24 hours. If you can’t manage this on your own, delegate the meeting facilitation to someone who can.
Time is money
If you have 10 people in your meeting who are being paid an average of $50 an hour, after 1 hour you have just spent $500 of the company’s money. That means you should have gotten at least $500 worth of value out of your meeting. Keep that in mind when you design the agenda as well as when you execute on it.
Oh yes, you need an agenda
If you do not have an agenda, people will bring their own, and there is nothing less productive than a meeting free-for-fall. Give everyone a paper copy of the agenda, objectives and purpose at the beginning of the meeting, even if you’ve already emailed them the information. The paper allows them to jot down notes and provides a concrete visual of the goals of the meeting.
Watch the clock
Did I mention that time is money? As the meeting organizer, a good way to keep things moving is to enlist a timekeeper and assign a certain amount of time to each agenda item. When time is up, the timekeeper can announce that unless the discussion can be wrapped up in the next minute or two, the item can be placed in the ‘parking lot’ and a future meeting scheduled to finish the conversation.
Meetings can still be fun
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. At Solarity we have an ELMO doll. ELMO stands for Enough, Let’s Move On. If things get long-winded, someone will raise the ELMO doll (or toss it at you if you are the culprit). It’s a fun, non-threatening way to keep meetings on track. An alternative is to simply raise your hand and say “Elmo” if you feel like your team is beating a dead horse. Most will recognize it’s time to put the issue in the parking lot.
Use a meeting structure
Solarity gets a lot of compliments from outsiders on how we run our meetings because of the tips above as well as strategies we’ve borrowed from other organizations. Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) has a very structured system called the Level 10 meeting, which includes, among other things, starting the meeting with a short check-in session to get everyone focused and ending it with a 1 -10 rating system. To learn more, check out their blog.
I’m still working to incorporate additional Level 10 meeting elements in my own meetings. I suppose meetings, like any art form, always have room for improvement!
About the Author
Sue Knies, PMP, CSSBB is the Director of Practice Management and Instructor with Solarity. Sue provides consulting services to organizations by managing key projects, and working with employees to improve and strengthen their project management skills. As an instructor, she develops and enhances courseware, teaches and mentors students in project management, and helps translate best practices and principles into approaches that are readily understood and utilized. Prior to joining Solarity, Sue had a long and distinguished career with IBM, working with worldwide, cross-divisional teams, collaborating with clients, and managing projects that yielded client solutions, drove growth and expanded wallet share. Additionally, Sue is an active memeber of the PMI® KY Bluegrass Chapter and has served on the Chapter Board in various offices such as President and VP of Programs.
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