Effective Meetings: Why Most Meetings Are a Waste of Time

Whether your company holds one meeting a week or dozens of meetings a day, it is critical that this time is used efficiently and effectively. Most meetings are less effective than they could be, not because they are poorly managed, but because meeting managers spend all their time focusing on an hour or two in which people will gather around the conference table. or the video screen. Smart meeting managers know that it is the actions you take during the three days immediately preceding the meeting that are far more important than the meeting itself.

When your meeting starts

The key to a successful meeting begins well before your meeting’s scheduled start time. Just as any athlete knows the importance of stretching before exercising, senior meeting managers know that how you spend your time the week before a meeting is as important or more important than the meeting time itself. .

Common signs that a manager has spent too much time focusing on the meeting itself and not enough time focusing on the pre-meeting activity include people coming to their meetings unprepared, some people suggesting many of the ideas, and a pattern. Consistent of rushing through the items at the end of your schedule.

Roger Burns, a 30-year veteran of high-level meetings, describes it this way: “Often the first 20 or 30 minutes of our meetings were spent with people flipping through documents that I had sent them more than a week ago. And not I had an idea what questions I was going to ask in the next few minutes. “

If you are like many, these symptoms appear more often. So what should a meeting manager do? How can you avoid these common mistakes? The answer is simple, but it starts a week before the meeting is scheduled to start.

The Three Ps of Successful Meetings: Preparation, Participation, Prioritization

Although a successful meeting requires a trained facilitator, that is only part of the puzzle. Equally important is the activity that has taken place before the meeting.

The First Q: Preparation

Using your meeting time effectively depends on all parties being prepared to participate. This means that each of the attendees has already read the meeting materials before the meeting takes place. In addition to this, the meeting participants should be given the questions to be discussed before the meeting.

Historically, most meetings begin with the president asking attendees a question. For example, if you were having a strategic planning meeting, a good question might be, “What do you think are the strengths of our organization?” At this point, the discussion moves around the table and each person has two minutes to process the questions, find a solution that sounds smart, and express the solution in a coherent way to the group.

The problem with this method is that most of the good ideas don’t come up in those two minutes. Good ideas come up while you’re driving to work, when you fall asleep, when you’re in the shower, the same times you’re probably not with your coworkers in a meeting. (Unless you routinely hold your meetings in the company locker room!) Giving the questions you will ask each meeting participant before the meeting is essential to getting the best ideas from your participants. It also gives them a reason to read the materials you distributed before the meeting.

The best time to distribute materials and questions is three to seven days before the meeting. This gives participants a chance to think about the problems and questions, but not enough time to forget their good ideas and why they liked them. Recovery here is quick and obvious. You’ll get more accomplishments in less time, saving your organization money and enabling you to implement your ideas faster.

The Second P: Participation

Getting the best ideas from your best people is essential to a successful meeting. The other half of this equation is getting a broad base of participation so that there is ownership in the solution rather than resentment.

If these two elements are so important to the success of meetings, why is it so rare that they happen simultaneously? The first reason it rarely happens is because the people who think the best are often the busiest. Most of the time, these high-value popcorn machines full of ideas are already scheduled for other meetings when you choose their meeting times. Although it is sometimes possible to reschedule your meeting to meet your availability, it is impossible to make adjustments at every moment and for every need.

The second reason you rarely get people of your best ideas involved and broad-based ownership at the same time has to do with the dynamics within meetings. Each person within your organization is connected differently and for each person who is comfortable expressing and advocating ideas in a meeting, there are others who do not have this gift. For those who are good at verbal maneuvers, getting support in a meeting is like a sport. For those less comfortable in this environment, defending a position can seem like torture. Clearly, a place is needed to allow everyone the opportunity to participate in the solution in a way that is non-threatening, democratic, and builds ownership directly in the process.

Don’t underestimate the value of this increased participation. Ideas, initiatives, and even directives that are viewed as having a broad support base are implemented faster and with a higher level of quality. In addition to this, better ideas are obtained when more people participate, especially when the people who participate are the closest to the action, not the ones incubated in their executive offices. All of this helps you innovate faster than the competition, get to market faster with your ideas, and win the battle for consistent quality.

The Third Q: Prioritization

In a perfect world, we would have unlimited time each day to do everything. Unfortunately, we live on the clock every day. Too often our meetings are crammed with agenda items placed there in the order that they appeared on our desk or in the order that we jotted them down on a yellow sticky note while on the phone, without any level of importance or urgency.

The best meeting managers understand that all items on an agenda do not deserve equal weight and prioritize topics starting with the most urgent. This allows your best minutes to be spent on your most important items.

Unfortunately, the leader’s priorities are not always the team’s priorities. There are many times when the grassroots have a burning problem that has completely escaped management. Effective meeting leaders have a system in place to identify and address these issues.

The benefit of having such a system is increased productivity in its most vital areas. By focusing everyone’s attention on the issues that are most important to your success, you will quickly see a decrease in non-value-added activity and increased profitability from your efforts.

A new set of tools

Now that we’ve shifted our focus from the one-hour meeting to the full week leading up to the meeting, a new set of tools needs to be added to your toolbox.

There are a multitude of tools already present and accounted for to help you with the actual meeting: from flip charts to electronic whiteboards, from video conferencing to the latest collaboration software that enables a group of people to edit a document from locations around the world, businesses are have kept up with a variety of electronic meeting solutions.

A new tool in this sector of the market is ehuddle. Ehuddle is a web-based tool used by companies before and after the meeting to increase the effectiveness of meetings. Initiated by a simple email to meeting participants, ehuddle allows all meeting invitees to see the questions to be asked, brainstorm possible answers, and evaluate a list of possible solutions. All of this activity takes place in the days leading up to the meeting, ensuring that participants are prepared for the meeting, having already thought through important problems and evaluated each other’s possible solutions.

Ehuddle uses a proprietary online format that is anonymous and democratic. Not only does this allow your committee members who were unable to attend the meeting to give their input, but it also creates an environment where no one is afraid to suggest ideas. Ownership is built into the process because everyone has participated in evaluating each solution.

Smart meeting managers are even using tools like ehuddle to set a portion of the agenda. By allowing grassroots members of any group to brainstorm and rank the issues that are important to them, the agenda automatically reflects the needs of the organization.

The return on investment for tools like ehuddle is realized quickly. Managers recognize wasted money in non-optimized meetings, low levels of participation, and distracted activity. Combine this with the increased productivity, faster problem identification and resolution, and faster time-to-market that the tool provides, and you’ll quickly see that this is money well spent.

Using this comprehensive set of tools before a meeting allows the leader to enter the conference room or video conference with the confidence that the foundation for a successful meeting has been laid.

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