Do people leave your meetings saying “That was a really valuable use of my time” or “What a great meeting!”? Or do you hear “What a waste of time” as they are walking out the door?
It is so easy to bash meetings: a waste of time, poorly organized, a lousy chair, no real purpose, out of control.
A company called Meeting King Consultants surveyed their customers and heard that:
- 37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings
- 47% consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time
- 39% of meeting participants admitted to dozing off during a meeting
- over 70% brought other work to meetings
But why just bash meetings? Why not fix them?
Great meetings can be very worthwhile, valuable and important to the cause. The same survey as above said “92% of meeting attendees value meetings as an opportunity to contribute to the organization”
So how do we ‘do’ good meetings?
In my mind, there are four major components to good meetings:
- a good foundation
A good foundation means that we are going to meet with all the right pieces in place: people, facility, food, documentation and technology. The first 10 minutes of a meeting is not the time to realize that you don’t have the key people involved. Meetings are not the time to be wasting other people’s time and energy when they really don’t need to be there. Early morning meetings require coffee. Meeting between noon and 1pm require lunch. The facility needs to be the right size, all required documentation needs to be available during the meeting and you need to make sure that your technology works. A solid ‘foundation’ will position the rest of the meeting for success.
Purpose means that we all know why we are in the meeting. Too many meetings waste too much time because we really don’t need to meet. Every meeting should have a declared and stated purpose and every attendee should know why they are there.
Structure is more about the mechanics of the meeting: a chairperson, a scribe and a timekeeper. An agenda that is distributed ahead of time, that we follow and that we stay on top of. Minutes from previous meetings are reviewed at the beginning and not the end of each meeting. Ground rules or terms of engagement on which we all agree: respect for people’s time and opinions, timeliness and more. Someone recently suggested that your agenda should include all questions that need to be addressed in the meeting.
Measurement means that we go back and ask ourselves and others if the meeting did what it was supposed to do. This ideally is addressed before we adjourn the meeting. It always brings back the purpose of the meeting and reminds us that we weren’t there just to waste our time and that we had a purpose in mind. Some people might take the second step to ask how we could have spent the time any better.
We need to stop wasting our time and the time of others with lousy meetings. Our meetings should be purposeful, well-run and efficient. They should have a goal in mind and everybody involved should be able to benefit from the time spent. Anything short of this is an example of bad meeting practices.
Is it time you looked at your meetings and asked yourself, or others, how you are doing?
Are you practicing good meetings?
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