By Barbara Mitchell
Q: We seem to spend a lot of time in meetings. What are some tips for making that time more productive?
A: Meetings are a fact of life in a today’s collaborative workplaces. The trick is to manage them well so they don’t waste your team’s time and energy. Here are nine quick tips for more productive meetings.
Develop ground rules for meetings, and post them in every conference room.
- Develop ground rules, such as “We start and end meetings on time,” “Everyone has an equal voice in meetings,” and “One person speaks at a time.” Post the ground rules in every conference room.
- Before you call a meeting, determine if it is needed. Could the information be shared via email?
- Invite the right people to your meeting. If a colleague isn’t directly involved in the decision to be made or doesn’t have information that no one else has, consider not including him, but let him know why. Odds are he will be thrilled to have the time available for other work.
- Always have an agenda, and assign times to each topic. Send the agenda out ahead of time so people can come prepared. Have a timekeeper to help the facilitator stay on schedule. The agenda should start with the most important topic (this should help get people there on time).
- If there are action items from the last meeting, always ask the people responsible for those activities to provide updates.
- If you, as the leader of the meeting, want to actively participate in it, consider asking someone else to be the facilitator. It is difficult to participate and facilitate.
- Assign a note taker to write up and share the minutes within an agreed-upon time.
- The facilitator should encourage everyone to participate in the discussions. If you invited the right people to the meeting and shared an agenda in advance, everyone should be ready to participate. But remember, introverts don’t tend to speak up unless asked or unless they’ve had time to process the information being shared. Don’t overlook them—they may have the solution you’ve been looking for.
- Try some new meeting formats. Stand-up meetings tend to be productive and quick. They don’t work if you have a lot of topics to discuss but can be very effective when there is one decision to be made. Or consider a “walking meeting.” Let people know ahead of time that the meeting will be held on a walk around your building or in your neighborhood, and remind them to dress appropriately for the weather. Research at Stanford University reported that people can be 60 percent more creative in a walking meeting. The ideal number of participants is two to four, so that you listen to each other’s ideas. Intrigued? Check out this Ted Talk on this popular trend.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].