Meetings. A seemingly necessary time suck. According to Harvard Business Review, 15% of an organizations collective time is spent in meetings. I did a calculation on my own calendar for the month of May and found that 29% of my working hours were spent in meetings. While many of these meetings were necessary and important, several of them were not and resulted in lost productivity.
You could say that I have a general dislike for meetings. Primarily because there is an opportunity cost associated with attending a meeting. A reduction in productive hours; potentially damaging to morale and in some cases, an unorganized mess that has you leaving the meeting with more questions than answers. Meeting organizers need to do a better job of prepping for their meetings.
As Administrators, we schedule and run meetings on a regular basis. More often then not, these meetings are vitally important; we are finding solutions, gathering requirements and making decisions that impact users and our organizations. While we can’t always control the content or outcome of the meetings we don’t schedule, we do have full control over the meetings that we do schedule. We need to take advantage of that control in order to maximize the efficiency of the meeting to attain the desired outcome. This is how to do it.
Do you really need to schedule a meeting?
Before opening up the Outlook calendar, determine if the meeting is truly necessary. Looking back, there are a number of meetings that didn’t need to occur. Simply getting out of your chair and starting an impromptu conversation with your contact may suffice.
My general rule of thumb is to schedule a meeting when there are three or more people involved and the topic is technical in nature or requires a conversation to get everyone on the same page. This allows for an organized discussion that takes place in person instead of through email or disparate conversations.
Choose the power seat
You are the meetings captain. Where you sit can have an impact on the outcome of the meeting. There is power in the seat you choose. Sitting at the head of the able communicates that you are the leader, you have control and you are there to intimidate. It is much easier to control the meeting and steer it’s direction when you are in the power seat.
This particular practice can also be used for meetings that you don’t schedule. Depending on the topic, you may want to ensure that you have a voice, or can direct the outcome of the meeting. So arrive early and claim the power seat.
Leverage non-verbal communication
The way that you present yourself in a meeting can also have influence over the productivity and outcome of the meeting.
- Sit up in your seat to evoke power and control
- Use eye contact when speaking to keep attendees engaged
- Lean in while others are speaking and truly listen to what is being said
- Use facial expressions to diffuse or create tension
Body language is a very important non-verbal used by every species to communicate and it shapes the way that we feel about ourselves, and how others perceive us.
Set the stage
Calendar invites that contain a vague subject, no description and no documentation are usually meetings I dread attending. There is no expectation of how this time will be spent and what type of preparation, if any, is needed prior to the meeting. A successful meeting is one with a plan.
Create a meeting invitation that is complete and lacking nothing. Every meeting member should be able to open the meeting invitation and know what this meeting is about, what the desired outcome is and how to prepare.
Meetings should not be spent trying to get everyone on the same page. Instead, use the meeting invitation to get everyone caught up so that time spent in the meeting room can be used for maximum benefit.
When the meeting invitation is complete, participants are likely to attend and contribute because they are educated and have a good understanding of the meeting’s goals.
Reduce or eliminate technology
Technology can enable bad behavior in meetings. It’s easy to glance at the latest tweet, return a text message or catch up on email during a meeting. With a room full of distracted people, the result is less than productive.
Determine if your meeting requires participants to bring technology and ensure that your wish is clearly communicated both in the meeting invitation, and perhaps a separate email.
While this works for some meetings, it doesn’t apply to all. If technology is needed, be sure that you engage with your audience by asking direct questions to those who are not paying attention and seem distracted. This will ensure that they pay attention; no one likes to get caught off guard in front of their peers. You may also ask that everyone in the room turn off their technology during key points of the conversation.
Prepare for meeting distractors
Meeting distractors are individuals that tend to take the meeting off course. The best way to ensure that distractors don’t have an impact on the meeting is to not invite them. However, they may be an integral part of completing the target objective. In this case, you need to prepare.
Creating a meeting objective and outline will help tremendously in curbing distractions. It provides a non-combative way of reminding the distractor that there are specific speaking points and a set direction for the meeting, allowing you redirect the conversation when things get off course.
There are multiple forms of distractors. Do some research ahead of time to understand the various types and be prepared to address these individuals in a professional way to keep the meeting on track.
Take notes and follow-up
Lastly, the meeting may require that the conversation is documented. Assign someone to take notes, or take notes yourself and be sure to follow-up with all meeting participants. This is especially important if tasks were assigned.
Depending on the program used to take notes, recording the meeting may also be a great way to ensure that all information was captured correctly. Evernote does a great job with this as it has a recording feature as part of the free version.
Running a meeting can be difficult. But with proper planning, your meetings can run smoothly and result in the desired outcome.
What tactics do you use to run an efficient meeting? Share your tips and tricks below!