Pretty much every industry has them. Some more than others. You probably find yourself attending a meeting many times during the week. Naturally meetings are necessary for communications, making new policy, etc. But most people that I talk with tell me that they attend way, way too many meetings.
A recent Bain & Company study in the US, found that 15% of corporate time is spent in meetings. And it gets worse for senior executives. According to the study they spend the equivalent of two days per week in meetings. That’s enough to make you want to stand up and scream. And I’m in the meetings and events industry! Maybe it’s because of my hotel past, where meetings seemed endless (and many times pointless), that I always try and focus on making a meeting (whether it be for my own organization or for a potential client) productive and with a goal. And from the planning side, it’s important to make these meetings interesting enough that you attract the right attendees.
Tips to Running an Effective Meeting
Say no. Really, it’s not that hard. If you’re busy and you have pressing deadlines then there’s nothing wrong with excusing yourself as it will benefit the company as a whole. Now if you’re saying no just because you don’t feel like attending then that’s a whole other story. But saying no because you are involved with an important company project will not leave a negative mark. And if it does leave a negative mark, then I suggest you look for a different company to work for. Ryan Holmes of LinkedIn relayed a story where people would start to say no to him if they were too busy. And he is the CEO of the company! As such Ryan now makes Tuesdays and Thursdays no meeting days (for his engineers).
Make your objectives clear. Pick an agenda and stick to it. Follow-up is also crucial as it makes people accountable for their areas of responsibility. Plus it gives the meeting a purpose. Now there’s a novel idea.
Stick to a schedule. Start times and stop times are important. What message are you sending if you’re starting your meeting 10 min. after the scheduled start time because you’re waiting for all of the attendees to arrive? Well it’s telling those that arrived on time (or even early) that they’re not as important as the last person to step in the door. I can remember showing up for a meeting, sitting there drinking coffee and chatting for 10 or 15 min. before things got underway. Naturally we would always run over time as well. Well if your meetings start falling into that trap, your attendees are starting to write off entire mornings or afternoons because of the start and stop times.
Ban technology. I can hear the gasps. I’ll relay a quick story about technology in meetings. My partner and I attended a hotel sales meeting to showcase our new meeting and event database software. A presentation. When the host of the meeting was speaking, I found it odd that many of the attendees were looking at their smart phones while she was speaking. Then it all made sense. Once she introduced us and we started our presentation, well lo and behold guess who started to check all of her emails? I find that extremely rude (maybe that’s because it is). If you do not ban technology your meetings will not have a focus. Plus it’s not respecting the team’s time. Trust me, people can put their damn phones down for one hour to listen and contribute to a (hopefully successful) meeting.
In my hotel days we used to have a morning ops meeting with all of the department heads to review the previous day’s activities. It was a hotel so naturally there were various incidences etc. My manager always hosted these meetings with us standing up in his office. At first it used to bother me as I can remember standing there wishing that we could sit down and just relax. Now, upon reflection, I understand completely why he made us stand up. Standing up made these morning meetings quick, effective and to the point. We wanted to review the issues quickly, assign the various tasks and then get on our way to the rest of our busy day. Upon reflection I think the method was brilliant. Many times these meetings were over in 10 min. with much accomplished.
- You will get a chuckle out of this funny video that shows us what it would be like if live meetings were held like conference calls.
Check out these related meeting articles:
- Meeting Planning-How to Run Effective Meetings (Wishful Thinking)
- Planning Meetings – To Bore or Not To Bore!