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How to Run Effective Meetings

“Let’s schedule a meeting” has become the universal response to most business issues. Not sure what to do on a project? Schedule a meeting. Have a few ideas to share? Schedule a meeting. Struggling to make a decision? Schedule a meeting.

While meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the workday, most employees consider them to be a waste of time. According to a 2014 survey by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the number three office productivity killer (behind cellphones/texting and the internet).

 

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Meetings should be great- they’re opportunities for a group of people sitting together around a table to directly communicate. So why are they so despised? Is it the feeling that we could be actually working instead of sitting in a pointless, seemingly never ending meeting? Is it the fact that most meetings go off the agenda within five minutes? Or is it simply that many meetings are being held for the wrong reasons? Whatever the reason, there are ways to run effective, efficient meetings that leave your employees or co-workers feeling energized and excited about their work. Here are some tips:

  • Decide if you really need the meeting. Before setting up a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really needed. Weigh up the meeting cost in man hours against the anticipated value it will add.
  • Prepare as much as possible. Make your objective clear, and set a realistic agenda. Standing meetings with vague purposes, such as “status updates,” are rarely a good use of time
  • Consider the invite list. When you’re calling a meeting, take time to think about who really needs to be there. If you’re announcing a change, invite the people who are affected by the announcement. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution. When people feel that what’s being discussed isn’t relevant to them, or that they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they’ll view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
  • Stick to the agenda. Once you’re in the meeting, put that agenda up on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This keeps people focused and lets them know where the meeting is headed.
  • Start on time, end on time. If you have responsibility for running regular meetings and you have a reputation for being someone who starts and ends promptly, you will be amazed how many of your colleagues will make every effort to attend your meetings. People appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable.
  • Ban technology. The reality is that if people are allowed to bring smartphones into the room, they won’t be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it.
  • Follow up. It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, email a memo highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page.
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