Only YOU can prevent ineffective meetings . . .

Have you ever left a business meeting muttering to yourself, “That was a waste of time”? If so, this statistic will come as no shock to you. According to the Department of Labor, American businesses waste millions of dollars every year in ineffective meetings.

Here are just a few signs that you have been a part of an ineffective meeting:

  • Thirty minutes in you are still asking yourself, “Why am I here?”;
  • You have only a vague idea of the purpose for the meeting;
  • The moderator has no agenda or isn’t sticking to the one he has;
  • Most “participants” are barely participating – except one who is dominating the discussion;
  • You leave with no clear understanding of “the next step”; or
  • You leave with unrealistic and/or impossible assignments.

Want to know what that meeting cost your employer? If you add up the hourly pay rate of each employee in attendance, multiply it by two (allowing for benefits and company overhead), then multiply that by the number of hours spent in the meeting . . . you can see how expensive a meeting can be. If it’s productive, it is time and money well spent. If not . . . well, you do the math.

You may not be able to fix the meetings you’re invited to, but you CAN fix the meetings you plan. Before you rally your troops for another meeting, ask yourself:

  1. What’s the point? Refine the PURPOSE of your meeting. Capture it in a brief statement. Then communicate that statement in the invite and on the agenda (sent with the invite).
  2. Do I have to? Now that you’ve established your purpose, can you skip the formal meeting altogether and accomplish it over the phone, through email or with a quick “drop in” visit?
  3. Who cares? LIMIT your invitee list to those participants who really need to be there.
  4. Where was I? Prepare an AGENDA and plan to stick to it. Begin each item with an action to be accomplished (“decide”, “discuss”, “resolve”, “create”, etc.). Be realistic about the time you will need. Then show respect for your attendees by beginning and ending the meeting ON TIME!
  5. What’s next? Plan for NOTE TAKING at the meeting. Best to assign this task to someone else who will attend so you are free to facilitate. Make sure any issues or actions that will need follow up are recorded. Be specific. Assign follow up tasks before the meeting ends if possible.

If you are planning for a brief, routine staff meeting, you might try one of the latest trends: Stand-Up Meetings. This method is becoming more popular, especially among tech firms. Many have found participants are more likely to pay attention and less likely to “filibuster” if nobody is seated in a cushy chair.  One company even holds their regular staff meetings at 12 noon sharp! Nothing like growling stomachs to keep comments brief and on track.

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