21 Tips for ultra-productive meetings

Do you have the feeling that you are running from meeting to meeting and wondering why you were there in the first place?

Does your company suffer from “chronic meetingitus”?

Do you hang around in meetings waiting for the participants to finally turn up?

Have you ever nodded-off in a pointless meeting?

Have you ever left a meeting feeling unclear about the next step, other than knowing the date for the next meeting?

If you can answer yes to at least three of the above questions then read on.

A study in France by the Hamelin Group found that:

It has been estimated in France that people spend up to 45% of their work-time in meetings, and that does not include the preparation time that goes into the run-up to the meeting.

51% of people found that meetings in the workplace were too long.

33% found that meetings were boring.

25% thought that the meetings they attended were useless as no decisions emanated from the meeting.

22% were frustrated by long, boring and inutile meetings.

Another study also discovered that the average concentration time of a French worker isaround 12 minutes!

Another study carried out in Holland by The Institute Synovate discovered the following findings:

Meetings costed the country 60 billion Euros, of which30 billion euros went towards salary costs of people attending meetings.

16 billion euros went towards the preparation of meetings and14 billion euros was spent on travel expenses for attending meetings.

The average Dutch worker spends 3.5 hours per week in meetings, adding up to 18 days a year in a meeting room!

The Dutch found that 44% of the meetings were unnecessary and 95% said that they often daydreamed in meetings.

This all sounds a bit worrying, especially when we consider that meetings are designed, at the outset to fulfill several goals, one of which is to ensure that everybody is up to speed on inter, or intra department working decisions.

This can mean project meetings, board meetings, decision making meetings or committee meetings, to name but a few.

The objectives in business meetings being to move things along and facilitate change, with an ultimate aim to earn money for the business – not to waste it!

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your next meetings.

1. Check and organise the logistics of the meeting room – ensure that water is available, power-points if needed, projector, tables, chairs, network connections etc.

2. Have a clear objective for running a meeting – if there is no clear reason – then there is a clear reason not to have one.

3. Invite only the people that absolutely must be in the meeting – inviting others just to be nice or not to hurt their feelings is not a good reason and you will not be thanked for it ultimately.

4. Plan the meeting in advance – the way it will be run and what you want to achieve from the meeting. Planning is 75% of the meeting.

5. Establish the rules from the outset – no telephones, duration and how you intend to drive the meeting forward.

6. Choose the time of the meeting well. Meetings just before lunch or at the end of the day may not be as productive as those run earlier in the day. If people turn up for an 11 o’clock meeting at 10 past 11, start it next time at 10 past 11. In one of our clients we suggested that the room was locked after the start time of the meeting and those that turned up late were turned away – this happened only once as everyone turned up on time the next time. Not the 11 o’clock is the start of the meeting NOT the time when people should be there – stipulate that people should be there 10 minutes beforehand – tempt them with a coffee break that starts at 10h50 for a meeting that starts at 11 o’clock. Ensure the meeting starts AND finishes on time – never overrun or start late – your reputation will suffer.

7. Have a clear, detailed agenda that is sent out beforehand to all participants with the timing clearly marked – with the section AOB reduced to a bare minimum.

8. Keep the meeting as short as necessary and as short as possible – if you finish the meeting effectively, at an earlier time – finish the meeting, don’t stretch it out for no reason.

9. Start with the conclusion of the last meeting and actions achieved or news if it is a first meeting – get engagement for deadlines and cut-off dates for tasks or projects.

10. Help people learn things during the meeting – think of the benefits for the people attending the meeting.

11. Use a facilitator when necessary in a meeting to ensure the smooth interaction of all participants – you can learn a lot from an experienced meeting facilitator.

12. Check the understanding of each salient point before moving on to the next one – this avoids the “asides” meetings that occur when people are unclear.

13. Vary the way the information is given and used during the meeting – variety helps keep concentration levels up, but there is no need to go to extremes here – just be clear.

14. Give clear roles to the members in the meeting and ensure that everyone realises and understands what is expected of them.

15. Use meetings to solve, not create problems. This may sound ridiculous, but consider some of the meetings that you may have attended in the past.

16. Keep clear, concise minutes that culminate in action points, not explain every minute detail, conversation and minute spent in the meeting room – ensure that someone is given the role of “minute-taker”.

17. Communicate clearly before and after the meeting. Ensure that action points are communicated in good time after the meeting to the relevant people.

18. Manage personalities in the meeting room, ensure that every member – who YOU have chosen to be there as they are important for achieving the objectives of the meeting – have their say and are not shouted-down or overshadowed by those who speak a lot or who like hearing the sound of their own voice. As chair of the meeting, this is one of your obligations.

19. Get attendees to sign for their presence in the meeting and, if logistics allow, print off the action points and have those who are to carry- out the actions sign for them. Always have a cut-off date for actions and be specific – “the beginning of the week” is obscure, is it Sunday, Monday or Tuesday? It is better to have a specific date or time – “The middle of June” should be replaced by the specific date, “15th June” for example is precise. Think always about clarity.

20. Think about using exit polls at the end of meetings to check understanding and also to give you a way of qualitatively verifying your impact, which can be used as a continuous improvement tool to help you continue learning how to run effective, stimulating and coherent meetings.

21. Be clear – there is nothing that provokes more stress in the workplace than a lack of clarity.

Ensure that people are empowered and responsible as a group for the success of the meetings that they attend and the achievement of objectives, aims, goals and deadlines that emanate from the meeting.

The participants in the meeting are stakeholders, not the wallpaper – looking on passively.

A meeting is a place of action, motivation, engagement and where things are set up to happen, where everyone is responsible for the results.Enjoy your next meeting…

Active Consultants run seminars through distance and face-to-face learning on running effective meetings with blue chip companies throughout France and Europe.

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