Unfortunately wasting time in meetings is a major complaint among managers and employees. Surveys of managers have suggested (1) 30% or more of meeting time is unproductive and (2) the majority of meetings fail to accomplish their objectives. There are great leaders and managers who do not have “how to conduct effective meetings” in their toolkit.
Well-run meetings make things happen. If you are leading a meeting, here are questions you need to answer.
1. Is this meeting really necessary? You are spending the company’s money to bring people together. Is it worth it? If you are mainly sharing information, there may be more efficient ways, such as intranets, email, video conferencing.
2. What do I want to get accomplished at this meeting? If you’ve decided a meeting is necessary, then you should have a good handle on the purpose. You need to think through what items you need on the agenda and in what order. Then share the agenda with people coming to the meeting and give them time to prepare.
3. Will the right people be at the meeting? It is hard to make decisions if the decision-makers, or the people with the information needed, are not in the room. Be sure the key players will attend.
4. Should smartphones, computers and other digital devices be allowed? This can be a tough decision. Some leaders and organizations ban digital devices from important meetings. In a well-run meeting participants are engaged with each other. The fewer the distractions, the easier to focus, and perhaps the shorter the meeting.
5. Can I expect the group dynamics to lead to a successful meeting? Some people talk too much. Some people don’t talk enough. Few of us are good active listeners. Here are two techniques to consider when needed:
(1) Use the “talking stick”, only the person with the stick (pen, or pencil) can speak. Others must listen. The stick can be passed around or exchanged among participants.
(2) Use the Crawford Slip Method, a method to get anonymous feedback, with depth and no group dynamics. Show participants a target question, such as “How can we improve customer service?,” and have them write a one sentence answer on a post-it, turn it over, then write another, then another. No talking allowed. Continue for 7-10 minutes or until about half of the attendees are not writing. Collect the slips and after the meeting sort them into categories. These slips are data that can be fedback and used to develop action plans.
6. How will I get feedback about how the meeting went? Apply continuous improvement to your meetings just like any other process. It can be as simple as asking participants to give feedback about the meeting, a few anonymous sentences written at the end of the meeting on what went well, ideas to improve.
Modified from my original article published online 2014 in the American Management Association's Playbook.
Image by Gerd Altmann. Obtained from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/meeting-meet-business-people-people-1219530/
© John Ballard, PhD, 2022. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Available as ebook, hardback, paperback, audiobook, and audio CD. The best-selling audiobook, and CD, are narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon.