Pop quiz! Which is the most popular form of business communication today?
- Voice mail
- Face-to-Face chats
According to data collection group, OfficeTeam, the answers are: Meetings/Face-to-Face: 44%; E-mail: 34%; Texting: 15%; Voice mail: 7%.
Why then are most meetings boring and unproductive? You know the ones I am talking about; the leader drones on and on, the know-it-all doesn’t really know it all, people surreptitiously stare at their iPhones, and we barely get anything accomplished.
Let’s change that. Here are five tips that should make your next meeting more productive and less boring:
1. The agenda: One problem with meetings is that they can too often seem to be open-ended affairs, allowing people to hijack the meeting with their own agendas. One solution suggested by Roger Schwarz, author of Smart Leader, Smarter Teams, says that instead of having a typical agenda, try turning the agenda items into answerable questions:
“1. Discuss new video series.”
Change this agenda item to:
“1. Video series:
- Who is in charge of the first video?
- What resources do we need to get it done?
- When will it be finished?”
At the end of that quick discussion, everyone will know the who, what, and when of the issue.
2. Who, what, when: Even if for whatever reason your agenda items do not lend themselves to the above process, a similar outcome can be achieved by ending each discussion item with those three simple questions: Who, What, and When.
“Who is in charge, what needs to get done, and when will it be done?” Bingo. No more confusion.
3. Mix it up: Meetings get boring because they become routine and predictable. One way to counter that is to challenge the status quo. For example, you can:
- Choose a different location; hold the meeting outdoors, or at a restaurant
- Ask folks what they would change if they were CEO
- Break out the arts and crafts – crayons can be a conduit for creativity, and are a lot more fun than staring at a PowerPoint document
4. Have fun: Along the same lines, in the great management book Fish, the authors show how lightening the mood, being more playful, and setting a fun tone can reap tremendous productivity rewards. By encouraging your team to have fun in the meeting, you will surely spur their creativity and lessen the boredom factor.
5. Creative / brainstorming sessions: Not all meetings need to result in an actionable to-do list. There are times when a team gets together in order to flesh out ideas and brainstorm. Richard Branson says that when he has these types of meetings, he likes to bring in speakers from different fields outside of his industry– maybe an astronomer from a local college for instance. This helps to get the group thinking in new ways.
6. Time Limits: Finally, consider putting a time limit to your meeting. One of the things people dislike about meetings is that they can drag on too long and get in the way of “real work” getting done. You can avoid this by limiting the length of a meeting. If everyone knows there is a time limit to the meeting, they are more apt to concentrate on the tasks being discussed. Some management gurus even suggest that meetings should take place when all attendees are standing up. This prevents people from checking out while simultaneously forcing them to get to the point and get work done.
The bottom line is that by organizing meetings differently, your team will be challenged, and that in turn should result in a better, more interesting, more valuable, and ultimately, more productive meeting.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.