We’ve all sat in those meetings. You know, the ones that take place at the last minute and go on for hours without an end in sight, and without food in sight. However, we still need meetings. Right?
Forbes notes that even before you hit the send button calling for a meeting and putting a damper on staff members’ day, you must establish why you need a meeting. A good rule of thumb is if what you have to say can be stated in an email, then ditch the meeting. Otherwise, consider the precise purpose of the meeting and who needs to attend. According to Harvard Business Review, the major types of meetings include the following:
- Information sharing – You have details about an important change within the organization.
- Input seeking – What are some ideas about how to raise funds for the new building?
- Decision making – What will this year’s fundraiser be and who is in charge of which production area?
Meetings, virtual and in-person, are as inevitable as family gatherings around the holidays with crazy Uncle Saul. We may always get a feeling of dread in our stomachs at the prospect, but what can we do to make the meetings as bearable and as effective as possible?
- Match the content of the meeting to the style. If it is going to be a decision making type of meeting, invite only those people capable of making the decisions. If you seek input and want to the entire team to have a say, make sure you have enough markers, comfortable chairs, and proper nourishment. If it is a short announcement that is better said in person than email, keep staff members on their toes, literally and figuratively. (Also, casual walk-and-talk meetings in small groups can provide great exercise!)
- Write a mission-driven agenda and send it before the meeting. Focus employees’ attention and let them consider how they might contribute to the meeting. Inc. suggests that the agenda be based on what the staff thinks is important, not just the leader, and quickly be generated in “real time.” If that approach is taken, then proper time must be allotted, which brings us to the following point.
- Stick to the allotted time. Give a realistic time frame for each agenda item. Defer interesting tangents for another meeting or a follow-up email. Unplanned discussions often lead to tangible ideas but should not happen at the expense of people’s time.
- Follow up after the meeting with an email. Meetings don’t happen in a vacuum. Real consequences should come from the meeting. Ask how the results of the meeting affect the staff members’ work assignments.
- Make sure the meeting is run as successfully as a classroom. Have you ever heard of visual learners vs. tactile learners? Well, the same rule applies to adults. Make sure the leader of the meeting is capable of engaging the staff in a myriad of ways, e.g., graphics, objects/props, etc. It may even help if he or she practices some comedic skills, too. People tune out when the information is either irrelevant or presented monotonously, or both!
According to Project Management Hacks, the average American employee attends at least 60 meetings per month. If meetings are such a crucial part of the workplace, then we, unfortunately, cannot fight them or flee from them. However, it is not unreasonable for us to expect them to not crush our spirits, or our time.
About the Author: Jennifer Schaupp once sat in an idea-generating meeting that lasted 6 hours. She was at least grateful for the free salad for lunch. She writes for New Place Collaborations.