Of all the hours small business owners spend in meetings, how much of that time is productive? Late arrivals, tangent-talkers, and disorganized agendas can easily turn a 30-minute meeting into an hour-long discussion. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient for everyone.
Do you really need to meet?
Andrea Driessen, “Chief Boredom Buster” of No More Boring Meetings, says to meet only when there is a problem to solve. “This helps eliminate some of the standard meetings we get stuck in,” she says. If there isn’t a problem to solve during your regular Tuesday meeting, maybe you don’t need to meet.
Prioritize the agenda
Organize the agenda in order of priority, with the most important item first. “Everything else can follow,” says Driessen. Move lighter topics to the end, when people are more mentally fatigued and tend to watch the clock.
Streamline the agenda
Reasonably estimate how many topics you can cover in 30 to 60 minutes. “If it requires dialog, problem solving conversation, or negotiation, keep it on the agenda,” says Driessen. Otherwise, check it off the list.
Hosts and guests alike should arrive to the meeting prepared. Hosts and attendees can distribute reading material, background information, and reports in advance of the meeting. That way, you can use meeting time for questions and conversation rather than reviewing paperwork.
Arrive on time
Much to the irritation of the punctual, latecomers delay and disrupt a meeting. Respect your colleagues—arrive on time and start your meetings on time. If you have a habitually late guest, author Jon Petz suggests a game of “pass the pad.” Give the last person to arrive a notebook or electronic device and delegate them the meeting note-taker. If someone arrives later, the pad gets passed to him. “This results in quick behavior changes with little effort,” says Driessen.
Cut the tangents
Driessen suggests that meeting hosts designate a “tangent officer” that can politely interrupt the rambler. The tangent officer then offers to either add the topic to the end of the agenda or save it for another meeting.
Invite the right people—and keep them accountable
Only invite people that have a stake in the meeting topics, Driessen suggests. This naturally keeps the meeting to a reasonable size and helps to avoid tangents from people unfamiliar with the topics.
Often meetings involve lots of discussion but no action. To ensure that ideas move forward, Driessen suggests a Post Program Pair-Up. Match participants with an “accountability buddy.” Ask guests to record at least one goal related to the meeting that they can complete by a certain date. The accountability buddies check in with one another to make sure they meet their goals. This buddy system, or something similar, will help you get stronger results and measurable accountability from your meetings.
With advance planning, you and your colleagues can hold and attend productive meetings. With fewer, but more purposeful, meetings, you can create more space in your day and enhance your business’s productivity.
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