Meetings. However important people make them sound, secretly, we all know how dull, boring and futile most of them are; unless, of course, there is free food! Time and again studies have shown why meetings must be avoided, shortened, or include fewer people to save time. If you are planning to hold a meeting to discuss something of supreme importance (to you), make sure you go through this list to end up having a productive one. After all, you don’t want your attendees to improve their doodling skills, check the insides of their pens, or learn the art of sleeping with their eyes open while they sit through the meeting.
Stop having useless meetings by asking yourself these questions:
1. Do I really need to hold a meeting?
Most unsuccessful meetings happen because those who initiated them forgot to ask themselves this question. Not all issues need meetings to be discussed. Some can be sorted over a conference call, some can be discussed face-to-face just with one person, and a few can be discussed in a quick, standing meeting right at your desk. So, before you decide to send out that invite to multiple people, check if you really need to do it.
2. Have I invited the right people?
More often than not, you find yourself attending a meeting you do not have much to contribute to. Inviting irrelevant people to your meeting will result in a waste of everyone’s time. Be really sure of who needs to be a part of the discussion and invite only those. Of course, you could keep additional people in the loop once the meeting is over as to what was discussed and concluded.
3. Have I selected the right time?
This might seem simple, but in reality, is tricky; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been so much research being conducted around this topic. While Monday mornings may seem to be the best time to hold a meeting, various studies strongly suggest that they are actually the worst. That’s because most people love taking Mondays or Fridays off to enjoy a three-day weekend, and those who turn up are still recovering from their weekend mode on Monday mornings.
Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons are considered the best times to hold meetings as everyone is a bit settled in and has an idea of what he/she is up to. Also, don’t plan your meeting just before or after lunch as food will be on everyone’s mind before lunch and lethargy after it. It is important to consider everyone’s time zones if you have people joining the meeting over calls from other countries.
4. Have I conveyed the agenda clearly?
Don’t we all get irritated with meeting invites that come without any specified agenda? Don’t be the person who sends them out. Make sure you define exactly why the meeting is being called. Knowing the purpose will also help the attendees to prepare well for the discussion and thus share valuable views.
5. Have I tested the equipment I will need?
Remember that meeting where everyone waited an eternity for the projector to start working or that one where a person who was supposed to join from the neighbouring country just couldn’t due to some technical issue with the telephone? These technical glitches not just waste everyone’s time but also deflate the group’s enthusiasm. Do test all the equipment you will need throughout the meeting well before it starts. As a backup, ensure that you have a technical person on your speed dial in case something goes wrong.
6. Have I planned my day in a way that I start the meeting on time?
Punctuality is completely underrated in today’s corporate world. We all forget that time means money and that’s why it is of prime importance that we do not waste it. Ensure that you start the meeting on time and set the right example for everyone. If you don’t do that, there will be people leaving mid-way to serve their other commitments and thus, the entire meeting will prove futile.
7. Have I made the list of things to discuss?
It is extremely important to discuss the most important things at the start of the meeting to ensure they are given all the attention. It isn’t unusual for people to lose interest mid-way and that’s why you could discuss things of lower importance then. For this to happen, you will need to have a clear list of things to discuss according to their value and make sure you as well as everyone present sticks to it.
8. Have I decided how not to get diverted?
During meetings, especially long ones, people get diverted all the time. You cannot imagine how fast the discussion moves from the sales figures to the sales offsite and suddenly, everyone’s having a good laugh. It is good to have people enjoying your meetings but not at the cost of important issues being put on the backburner.
That’s where your part comes in. In case there is a slight diversion from the agenda, let the moment pass and then gather everyone’s attention back to the important topic. This will save time and lead to valuable conclusions.
9. Have I made sure to draw a conclusion at the end of the meeting?
We all have been a part of meetings that do not end with any specific way forward. This is a typical characteristic of an unproductive meeting. To ensure that doesn’t happen, you have to shape the discussion in such a way that important issues are solved and problems are addressed to instantly.
If there is someone to be consulted, get them on a call right away and sort it out; if you need an HR approval for something, try to get in touch with them while the meeting is on. Always remember, quick actions lead to quick solutions.
10. Have I decided who will note down the important conclusions?
Only a few realise the importance of noting down the important things being discussed during a meeting. If you will be unable to do so as you are presenting something or due to some other reason, assign the task to someone in the group.
One person needs to list down the key conclusions so that there is a record of all that was discussed that can be referred to in future. These minutes can then be circulated on a mail to the relevant people for their records.