Business meetings – don’t you just love them?

Well, not really. Not if the average experience and commentary from many I know is anything to go by. Adjectives that apply most often include “boring”, “waste of time”, “went on too long” and “didn’t achieve anything”. And yet many of us spend a significant part of our working lives in them! If you’re one of the frustrated majority, try these suggestions to help make them more productive.

Decide what the aim is – IMHE (Experience not Opinion), there is an implicit assumption about many meetings that is often not borne out by the content or approach taken: this being that meetings are about discussing things and making decisions/taking action as a result. It’s just that – if this is your assumption – it can be all too rarely achieved (“It was just a talking shop”, “a free-for-all”). Some of the solution is down to assertive chairing; however, it does help to make absolutely explicit what the aim of the meeting is to those who may attend, before they get there. And if it’s just for information share, say it is.  That way, you have more likelihood of getting the right people to attend…or not attend :-).

Have an agenda – agendas are a key part of the efficient meeting armoury for chairpersons to drive the aim (which should be a part of the agenda headline) and keep things on track.  Shame then that they can be so infrequently used and that, quite often as a result, the whole thing becomes a bun fight very quickly.  If time is particularly of the essence, one meeting veteran that I know puts a time allocation by each item and drives the meeting accordingly!

Explicit commitments – IF you want to take decisions and decide actions, then get explicit commitment.  Not “I’ll try”, “Make best efforts”, or “If I have time”.  Agree specific actions, who will do them, who will be involved, what the outcome or deliverable is, and with specific timings.  Document/communicate this and all other key outputs to those attending or who will be involved.

None of this is dreadfully complicated, comprehensive, or a panacea.  But it should help reduce dissatisfaction and improve effectiveness.

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