Meeting Matters

Meeting Matters


By Kim Seeling

Meetings are a necessary part of work life.  Yet they are over used and ineffective in many organisations.  A 2011 study of over 800 IT workers conducted by Cisco Systems International found that nine out of ten workers would prefer to interact in any other way than attend a meeting – yet spend more time in meetings than any other form of interaction.

60% of these correspondents felt that nothing was accomplished during meetings and half stated that their meetings did not have clear agendas or include the right people for the subject being discussed.

As a result of these findings, 56% of respondents found that they had to regularly stay late at work, and 54% worked from home after hours because there was too much work to do.

These are grim statistics, but not unusual.  You can avoid becoming a statistic by following these eight simple steps to great meetings.

Come to the meeting with a clear plan of what you want to accomplish

Take some time prior to the meeting to determine exactly what you want to accomplish, decide, vote on or explore.  This may take some time, but is well worth it in the end.

Distribute meeting agendas in advance

Make sure everyone knows what will be discussed/decided/actioned and what you expect each member of the group to present on by distributing an agenda prior to the meeting.  Invite their feedback or changes.  This will hold them accountable for completing what they committed to do at the last meeting or face letting their team down.  It will also give you a heads up on issues that might need additional attention before to the meeting.

Start with something interesting that engages the whole group

Most meetings or project plans begin with the small stuff.  The theory is to get a few things off the table so that people feel like they are accomplishing something.  What ends up happening however is that the small stuff typically only involves one or two people in the room and the others will become bored and switch off.  Or worse, a discussion about an unimportant item ends up hijacking the rest of the meeting, because those who don’t need to weigh in feel like they should, to prove their relevance in the meeting.

Instead, start with an agenda item that engages everyone.  You might find that the small stuff actually takes care of itself in the process.

If possible, start with an agenda item where the entire project comes together (so they can see how they fit into the larger picture)

One of the principles of great employee engagement is to help your staff understand where they fit into the entire team or organisation. This is true at the macro level but also true when managing projects and holding meetings.

Always work from known material to unknown material

This concept works well for meetings as well as project management. If possible, solve a particularly tricky issue towards the beginning of the meeting and then tackle other items or tasks that work towards what has already been solved.  People feel more confident going from the unknown to the known; and in realising that they have already solved a challenging issue they feel confident to solve more – with resulting productivity increases.

Allocate a specific time to cover each item

Take the lead from school teachers and sports coaches who often tell their charges how long they have to work on a particular part before blowing their whistle to indicate when they have reached the end of their time.  This approach avoids getting stuck on something for a long period of time without resolution and works just as well in meetings.  It is often better to let an issue go and pick it up again later when everyone is fresh.  Sometimes the best solution is time and space.

So, set a time limit on how long something should be discussed or worked on.  If it’s not resolved, move on but put action plans in place to keep the project moving.

Recap to leave everyone with a sense of accomplishment

End the meeting or do a project post-mortem with a recap to refresh everyone’s memories about what has been accomplished.  That way they feel good about their group, the project and their part in it.  They will look forward to the next step or the next meeting.

Begin and end meetings on time

Even if everyone is not there.  They will soon learn to be on time and it respects those who have been punctual.  This alone will dramatically increase participation and positive feelings.

If you have a dedicated, hard working team who are all behind the group’s vision and goals these meeting practices will work wonders for increasing engagement and productivity.

Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Ignite Global, a consultancy whose mission is to deliver the much needed breakthroughs in attracting, engaging and retaining staff in today’s Social Age.

Originally trained as a CPA and Management Consultant with KPMG, Kim subsequently spent 15 years working as a recruiter and studying why some companies are great at staff retention while others constantly battle staff turnover.

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