Notice the word “more” in the title?
Hopefully, your meetings are already effective; start and end on time, include the right people, have clear agendas, and achieve intended outcomes. Is that true of your meetings? Sometimes, maybe, never? You’re not alone.
According to an infographic published in the Muse, more than $37 billion is spent PER YEAR on unproductive meetings. Each day, there are 25 million meetings PER DAY in the US, and executives consider more than 67% of those meetings to be failed and unproductive meetings. A whopping 92% of respondents confessed to multitasking during meetings. It’s no wonder results are less than successful.
Impactful tips to make sure your meetings are set up to be the best use of everyone’s time.
Timing – When you facilitate meetings do you typically start your meetings on time, or when everyone is present, which could result in 15 minutes of idle chat? At the end of the meeting, do you provide a cushion for people to leave and take a mini-break before having to join another meeting?
One great tip I’ve learned is to schedule meetings 5 minutes after the hour and end them 10 minutes before the hour. This allows people time to decompress from one meeting before they reorient themselves to the next.
Agendas – Can you remember the last time you were invited to a meeting and had no idea why, that lacked knowledge around the context – what’s going on with the meeting topic, who is involved, or what outcomes the meeting was intended for? – which meant the first 20 minutes of the meeting were dedicated to clarifying why everyone was brought together.
A clear, well-thought-out agenda allows participants to prepare to bring their best thinking. It provides valuable context and creates a space where everyone can be ready to share ideas.
Who to Include – Does your organizational meeting culture practice including EVERYONE in EVERY meeting just to make sure no one feels excluded? Or maybe you’re in recurring meetings where issues don’t get resolved because the people who have influence over decisions aren’t present? When it comes to having an effective meeting, we want to be intentional about the voices we include in the meeting and the voices we don’t. Perhaps there are perspectives from new employees or people in completely different departments that could add value to a decision you’re about to make. Who would be a stretch for you to include in a meeting?
Creating “More” Effective Meetings
Once you’ve got the essentials down (timing, agenda, people), you’re ready to take your meetings to the next level. Here are my three favorite meeting techniques that we cover in our Fierce Team Conversation Workshop.
1. Clarify the Issue
You want to call a meeting to do some brainstorming. Before you send that invitation, do you know what you would like to accomplish? Can you clearly articulate the issue in just two sentences? If not, take – some time to reflect on these key questions:
a. What is the issue? Is it a concern, a challenge, or an opportunity to evaluate? Has it been getting better or worse over the past few days or weeks?
b. What’s at stake? How does this issue impact our company? Our clients? Our team morale?
c. Has already been done so far? What’s worked? What hasn’t? Who else is involved?
Once you’ve clarified the issue for yourself, share relevant background information along with the core issue in an email to your attendees, letting them know why you’re bringing them together. This allows your internal and external processors the time they need to come prepared to do their best thinking in your meeting.
2. Create an Inclusive Space
How often do you find yourself in a meeting where two voices dominate the conversation? Whether you are leading the meeting or not, you can ensure that all attendees have equal airtime. Simply extend the invitation by saying, “Carly, what are your thoughts? What would you add or amplify?” This is about shifting the culture of meetings: no more wallflowers who sit back and never say a word. No more dominant voices that drown out the rest of the crowd from sharing valuable insights. You intentionally invited each person for their unique perspective, right?
3. Articulate Your Ideal Outcome
What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the meeting? Do you need the group to help you come to a solution or just generate out-of-the-box ideas? Are you hoping for them to buy into your proposal or poke holes in it? And whatever your hope is, ask yourself, “is it realistic?” Did I provide enough details, and enough time, or invite the right people to get to my end result? One of my most frustrating experiences is when I run out of time just when my creative gears have started spinning.
At Fierce, we know that life happens gradually, then suddenly. Which of these ideas will you start to gradually integrate into your meetings? Start with one, and over a few weeks track the results. Then add another idea to test and implement. Gradually then suddenly, you’ll find your meetings getting better and better results, one conversation at a time.