Away with wasteful meetings!

How many hours do we clock up in meetings?

And how much of that is mismanaged, and wasted? Reports suggest that at least 25% of time spent in meetings is unproductive.

So what would help us manage meetings better?

In training and facilitation, Learning ‘Design’ and ‘Delivery’ are two very different skills. It may surprise you that, just how many trainers stand in front of a room of people for a living wouldn’t dream of public speaking, some find the idea of designing (writing) a workshop intimidating.

What if this crossed over into meeting management, too?

What if we separated and acknowledged the difference between our meeting preparation (the design) and our meeting performance (the delivery)? Just because we’re great at setting an agenda doesn’t mean our chairing skills are up to scratch, or we’re a much-valued meeting contributor, and vice versa.

Importance of preparation

Brilliant meetings come across as smooth, straightforward and stress-free – running like clockwork. But that often comes from hours of planning and meticulous attention to detail.

Vital performance

If there’s one thing that will engineer quality content for us to borrow in everyday conversations, presentations and meetings, whether one-to-one or in groups: Bringing it to life! Getting participants – your team perhaps, your co-workers or your boss – to contribute, and to add context, brings it to life.

It’s easy for people to look like they’re taking notes when daydreaming, not to take responsibility in a meeting on the assumption that ‘this agenda item isn’t for me’, or even to contribute something time-wastingly irrelevant just so that they can be seen to participate. Perhaps we need to design (prepare) meetings and direct them such that everyone delivers (performs)?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, and each other. Has our meeting routine has become a forum for someone to hold court, for a group to mindlessly share information? Are we providing lots of airtime for many with decisions made by few, allowing some to say nothing from meeting to meeting, with people walking away asking, “Why was I in that meeting?”? If we’re nodding our heads at that question, then it’s time for a shake-up!

So, how do we get the right people in the room and contributing effectively?

1. Preparation

  • Setting an agenda that’s about discussion leading to action, not just reporting back
  • Providing enough structure that the conversation is guided – but people can’t get bored
  • Allowing everyone in the room to make it relevant by adding their own context – (what if they go back to their desk more engaged, and say, “You’ll never guess what they’re working on in their team!”?)
  • Breaking away from the expected format and make it action-packed; getting outputs (and recording them) in an unusual and interactive fashion

2. Planning for performance

If we want people to contribute, and our meetings to deliver what we need to plough forward, these actions will help:

  • Making others responsible for bringing content to the meeting or conversation
  • Asking people in advance what outcomes they need – so that the agenda is tailored and they have a vested interest in joining in
  • Appointing the right Chair for the results we need. Being honest and objective – it’s not necessarily the most senior person in the room
  • Testing how relevant the topic/s is/are beforehand – and allowing people to decline the invitation to attend if it isn’t
  • Seeking other information which may inform about other influential factors outside of the immediate topic/s
  • Reducing the number of people attending, to create a sense of increased responsibility (and importance – feeling as though we’re a victim of presentee-ism makes for an instant switch-off)

If we have meetings that sap every bit of bounce from the team, then a shake-up could be well overdue. The first step may well be to challenge “Why do we have this meeting?” – questioning its purpose before making the effort to put life back in. And if it has no purpose….why not kill it?

What meetings do you need changing, and how – and is it in the design, the delivery, or both?

Other articles you may like:

The moment of daily defeat

Meeting hero? 

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