“Do we have to have this meeting?” How many times over the last 10 years have you made that statement? Probably countless times. You were surely justified. Most meetings waste time and money because they are called for the wrong reasons. They have the wrong people in the room; too many people just want to hear themselves talk; they drag on forever; and worse, either no decisions are made or if they are, they are never enacted. Meetings are torture!
In my corporate days, I worked for a Fortune 100 that imposed so many meetings on the staff that they may have violated human rights treaties. Those people would call a meeting and first decide how long they wanted it to be. Then they would either expand or contract an agenda to fill the allotted time. Yikes!
Meetings were unproductive, mind-numbingly boring, seldom addressed relevant issues, typically brought forth no decisions, rarely produced follow-up actions and absolutely never ended on time. They were brutal.
The money and time wasted on senseless meetings by US businesses is now being calculated by an online company called Meet or Die meetordie.com. They chose about a dozen industry categories, factored the length of the meeting and the job rankings of who will attend and then estimated the cost of the meeting to the company. If you spend a lot of time in meetings (or are a serial convener), please check out this site. It will give you pause.
A company with 100-500 employees that holds a day long meeting with just 5 mid-level employees present will spend an average $3000.00 to conduct that meeting in-house. Team Leader, ask yourself—will your meeting produce results that are worth the resources expended? Are you guaranteed to accomplish what you set out to do? Will the actions and decisions that surface be implemented?
So what goes wrong? The biggest meeting killer is the lack of a clear purpose. What does the convener aim to do in the meeting and why? The second meeting killer is the agenda. The meeting agenda should reflect the purpose. Furthermore, it should not overflow the time scheduled for the meeting. The idea is to provide a framework to identify and define key issues; discuss and analyze those issues; and resolve those issues through decisions, strategies, action plans and follow-up.
Moreover, it is critical for the convener to bring the right people into the meeting. Identify the stakeholders and decision makers for the issues at hand and schedule a mutually convenient date and time frame needed to carry out the meeting agenda. Decide if any participants would be best suited to take ownership of a particular agenda topic and review with that person. Make sure that appropriate background materials are emailed in advance for participant review.
During the meeting, encourage participation from all attendees. Do not let people “hog the floor” or, heaven forbid, behave disrespectfully by attacking, sarcasm, texting, interrupting or other dysfunctional behavior.
There will be room for alternative viewpoints on how to approach and manage key issues and that is healthy. After all, you called the meeting to get input about concerns and possible solutions. Just remember that the meeting convener is responsible for ensuring good behavior and establishing an atmosphere of positive energy and thoughtful dialogue that will promote analysis, sound decision making and problem solving. The convener should also keep the meeting flowing by moving through the agenda and staying on time.
Lastly, the convener should review all decisions reached and actions planned; review who will take ownership of implementing those; establish an accountability follow-up schedule; and in a timely fashion, email meeting minutes to document it all.
There you have it, the secrets to running an effective meeting. Next week, we’ll talk about when it makes sense to call in a professional to plan and run a meeting for you.
Thanks for reading,