Ah, the much maligned business meeting. There’s no other activity in the history of the American workplace that has inspired both widespread adoption and intense dread. Despite the reputation meetings have earned, there is still hope for rehabilitating them so they can one day serve as important tools for fostering communication and action.
Want to get more out of your meetings? Be the change you wish to see in your organization and start implementing the following rules for meeting engagement.
Make sure it’s absolutely necessary. There’s nothing worse than arriving to a meeting only to discover that the information could’ve been conveyed via email or a quick in-person chat. If you want to make the most of your meeting–and be respectful of people’s time– don’t book a meeting unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Arrive with an objective. If you don’t know what you want out of a meeting, then you shouldn’t be having one. Whether you’re a maker–a programmer, writer, or another kind of creator–or a manager, meetings cost you time. And that’s in short supply these days. When you send a calendar invitation to the meeting, include a short agenda so individuals arrive prepared with the right information.
Stay focused on the task at hand. According to coach Brian Tracy, meetings should be run with the 80/20 principle in mind. “Organize the agenda so that the top 20% of items are the first items to be discussed,” he advises. If you run out of time for your meeting, you will have already addressed the concerns that account for 80% of the value of the meeting.
Be sensitive about timing. If you want meeting participants to stay engaged, don’t book a meeting for first thing on a Monday morning or on a Friday afternoon. Why? Monday morning meetings tend to catch people before they’ve had a chance to sync with their team, and Friday afternoon meetings are when energy is likely at its lowest. If possible, book your meetings on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon when attention-span–and bandwidth–is at its highest.
Invite the right people. When you’re trying to be efficient with your meeting process, it makes sense to think critically about who you’re inviting. Keep in mind that large meetings require more facilitating by the organizer, and smaller ones usually result in more engagement among participants. If you’re meeting to discuss a complex project, meet with key stakeholders first and contributors second, giving the decision-makers a chance to plan the overarching strategy and minimize the investment of time for contributors.
Encourage participation. Your team is more than likely comprised of different personality types–some extroverted, some introverted. Recently, studies have indicated the important role both personality types play in enriching a work environment. It may require more facilitation in meetings, but be sure to engage with quiet colleagues to make sure they feel comfortable sharing their opinions, particularly in large groups.
In organizations both large and small, it can be difficult to turn the tide on meeting culture overnight. The good news is, everyone wants more time in their day, and for that reason alone, employees should implement better meeting practices.