A recent study estimated that 32 BILLION dollars is wasted globally because of unproductive meetings.
I’ve never been a big fan of meetings. Let me clarify that – I don’t like having meetings or attending meetings just to “meet.” I also don’t like meetings that do not have an agenda, a start time, and an end time. Think about it – have you ever walked out of a meeting thinking, “what was the point of that?” I bet you’re nodding right now. That’s good. Some organizations have decided that they “must” have a staff meeting or management meeting every week on a certain day at a certain time. That’s fine – as long as there is new information discussed. But if you have to work too hard to come up with things to talk about, you don’t need a meeting.
Now, every meeting you attend will not be akin to a Bruce Springsteen concert. For the record, I’ve seen Bruce several times on a concert stage and have never walked out of a show thinking, “what was the point of that?” Of course, it is a good idea for management to get together in the same room fro time to time to review where projects stand. But “making progress” is never an acceptable answer in a meeting. And simply going over what is currently in progress isn’t enough of a reason to take people away from actually working on those projects. There has to be more to your meetings.
So, it’s time for organizations to make meetings matter. Here are 5 suggestions on how to do just that:
Send the agenda to attendees ahead of time. Let people know what will be covered in the meeting. EXPECT THEM to have reviewed it before they walk into the room. During the meeting, it is OK to deviate from the agenda but never get so far off topic that items on the original agenda are not discussed.
Start the meeting on time. Time is a valuable commodity that cannot be replicated. Have respect for people’s time by starting the meeting at the time stated on the agenda. If people are late, so be it. Make a note of it and take appropriate action after the meeting.
End the meeting on time. The end time is just as important as the start time. No one likes long, drawn-out meetings. And if you finish before the stated end-time, for goodness sake, do NOT hang on for the extra few minutes. Let people go early.
Do not simply read handouts to the attendees. Not only is it a waste of time but it is also insulting to people’s intelligence. Chances are if they are in the meeting to begin with, they can read all by themselves.
Do not leave the room without establishing action items and assigning responsibility. If you cannot come up with action items to take going forward, you didn’t really need a meeting. You may have needed to exchange e-mails or phone calls but you didn’t necessarily need to take people away from their offices and their teams.
So in summary, meetings should be used to plan and to talk about action. Stop meeting just for the sake of meeting. Your time would be better spent actually working on the projects that you want to “meet” about so much.