7 steps to making your meetings more effective

It doesn’t matter if you are are chairing a meeting or attending as the participants - just being there can be a daunting and often a stressful task. In most cases we would rather be somewhere else (watching paint dry maybe??) and not sitting round a table wondering how quickly we can get away.

According to Entrepreneur magazine there are seven deadly sins that frequently happen in in business meetings. Fortunately, once you know what they are you can avoid them…

Meetings that become rituals

A good example is the regular weekly, monthly or annual sales meeting. InQuicker (https://inquicker.com) used to hold a weekly Skype meeting. When the CEO, Michael Brody-Waite realised it ”felt a bit contrived" and caused "a giant productivity speed bump in the middle of every work week” they decided to schedule the meeting once a month. That made everyone happier and more productive. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the meeting actually necessary? What is its purpose?
  • Does it have an agenda with a desired objective (e.g. a decision, ideas, actions or information dissemination)?
  • And the most important one - do you have to attend?

Meetings that focus on the past instead of the future.

Often meetings are held to get staff to give an update the team on past activity e.g. sales or production figures. During tough times this will de-motivate staff and can cause performance to stall even more. Ideally past data should be reviewed before the meeting and used to get a better understanding (of the market place, customer / client needs etc.). The meeting can then focus on agreeing future actions and finding strategies to avoid similar situations.

Meetings that are too formal and rigid.

Historically meetings were a gathering of business managers who met to discuss the status and progress of the organisation. They were formal and serious. This sense of importance about meetings still exists resulting in a dry, boring event that does not motivate or inspire attendees. Break up the meeting with something that is not business related (e..g chatting about what was on TV, especially if its humorous often works). By injecting some fun into a meeting you can get people’s attention, create a bond, disarm negativity and generate enthusiasm.

Meetings that disrupt the most productive hours.

Meetings are often held at the wrong time of day interrupting the flow of productivity and creativiity. Meetings should be scheduled strategically. Participants are more likely to engage in the afternoon when they need a break from their desk!! Also avoid Monday mornings (when everyone is catching up) and Friday afternoons (when people are busy wrapping up and looking forward to the weekend). Meetings  also need a time limit - productive meetings always start and end on time. 

Meetings that are a one-way conversation.

People often use meetings as a way of “getting their message across”. When this happens you end up sitting in a classroom being lectured at  (its even worse if PowerPoint presentations are used). Meetings should be conversational with everyone encouraged to speak up, exchange ideas and comment on what they've heard. If you find yourself attending ‘a lecture’ prepare a really good question, raise your hand, and wait… this should interrupt in a good way and get people talking.

Meetings with poor leadership.

Nothing is worse than turning up for a meeting and having to wait for people to turn up or join the conference call. To make things worse you then waste more time bringing the late-comers up to speed on what they missed! Ideally the meeting chair will leave latecomers to catch up after the meeting or during coffee. As an attendee you can offer to update the latecomers so keeping the meeting on track - and always be punctual.

Meetings that are held in a bland environment.

At most meetings, people sit around a conference table and gaze at the leader at the head of the table. Jackie Freiberg, co-author of Nanovation: How a Little Car Can Teach the World to Think Big and Act Bold (Thomas Nelson, 2011) believes this format does little to stimulate discussion and creative ideas. If you find this happening once too often suggest these alternatives:

  • Hold a "walking" meeting in the park or around the parking lot to free up the discussion. "When you're not eye to eye, you have the guts to say certain things," Freiberg says. "And when walking, you look at the world differently, which stimulates fresh ideas.”
  • Have your meeting standing up. Anything routine or that can be finished in 15 minutes or less will keep to time and to the point if everyone remains standing!! Research also shows that team members who stood were more engaged, less territorial about their ideas, and generated more creative results (conducted by the Olin Business School of Washington University in St Louis).

If all else fails print of this article and pass it around - you can then suggest a meeting to discuss meetings…