Meeting Makeover: 10 ways to get your meetings back on track

Do you find yourself running from one meeting to another, often leaving feeling like little has been accomplished? How many of your meetings this week had an agenda? Did someone hijack the meeting and talk over others? Are you wondering why you were even there? Did anything get accomplished?

You’re not alone. According to a 2012 survey by Salary.com, U.S. professionals ranked meetings as the No. 1 office productivity killer.

In a world where days are dominated by meetings, it’s imperative that each meeting is run efficiently and effectively and that everyone walks away with a sense of accomplishment and clear understanding on the issues communicated.

That sounds relatively simple, however, it can be challenging in an environment where people are tethered to their devices, they may not show respect to their coworkers in a meeting setting and organizers are competing for attention.

However frustrating this can be, there are some simple tactics that can implemented to make your meetings run more efficiently and effectively.

Establish the purpose of the meeting.

If you don’t have a reason to meet then why should people attend? Share the objective of the meeting with the participants and make sure it’s visible throughout the meeting so that if you get sidetracked you can get back on track.

Determine expected ROI.

Time is money and in-house meetings should be treated no differently than an off-site event you produce. There should be expectations for measurable results, so that you can determine whether the meeting is successful.

Create an agenda and follow it.

Like the purpose, provide an agenda to everyone or post it where everyone can view it during the meeting. Keep your group disciplined to stay on topic, or quickly return if you veer off course.

Be thoughtful in who you invite to attend the meeting. Only include those who are directly impacted by the information presented, or those that can contribute to the discussion. For those not relevant to the issue, they will feel like their time has been wasted.

Start and end on time.

Time is money. Do not wait for people who do not show up on time. If you start the meeting on time, people will learn that they need to be there on time. This also applies to the organizer. If the organizer doesn’t show up on time, the participants won’t either.  Punctuate a great meeting by ending on time and allowing participants to get back to their work. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a meeting that was supposed to wrap up 20 minutes earlier.

Don’t dominate the conversation.

Keep the agenda moving forward, but allow participants to contribute to the conversation.

Wrap up a meeting with clear direction for participants.

Allow time at the end for a recap and to provide an action plan going forward. Follow up by emailing a written account of this (include detail on whom is responsible for what) so that everyone is on the same page.

Don’t meet just to meet.

Avoid scheduling regular meetings if at all possible. If you don’t have an action-taking agenda, consider disseminating information via a memo or different way.

Schedule meetings in shorter blocks of time.

Do you really need an hour? Can you try to accomplish your objectives in 45 minutes? Assess each meeting and minimize the time scheduled when possible.

Schedule meetings at either the beginning or end of the day.

This creates uninterrupted blocks of time for people, minimizing disruptions and time wasted as they refocus their attention.

MEETINGS ETIQUETTE

As a participant at a meeting, it’s important to follow some basic etiquette (or for planners/organizers, feel free to share these guidelines with those attending your meeting in advance).

Silence your phone and keep it out of sight.

A Pew Research Center study shows 95 percent of people find it unacceptable to use a cell phone during a meeting, but yet how many meetings have you been to where people leave their phones out and check them throughout the meeting?

Show up on time and prepared to contribute.

If you haven’t received an agenda from the organizer, contact them to find out what is expected of you.

Leave your snacks behind.

Do not bring food to a meeting unless you receive prior approval.

Be a courteous listener and don’t interrupt others.

Don’t be that person who hijacks the meeting and shuts down others.

Follow through on what’s expected of you.

After the meeting concludes, be sure to complete the tasks you are assigned.

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