Nowadays, it is easy to set up a meeting: book a room and invite participants. But is a session always necessary? Are all participants mandatory attendees? According to an HBR research1 71% of participants reveal that their time in meetings is wasted and that they experience them as inefficient and unproductive.
As a meeting organiser, you have it in your power to stop the meeting madness. Invite your peers to sessions only when you are sure that it makes sense for all, that it gathers the right participants and that it adds value to the company and its objectives.
In addition, you can do even more before you start. If the meeting is a presentation of results or an informative one, consider writing a (Management- or Executive-) Summary. A Management- or Executive-Summary is a roundup of information about a certain topic, usually aggregated on one page. It is sometimes also used for decision-making by the management.
Why should you consider it? It saves time and still gives you the possibility to present your achievements, but in a more efficient way.
If you then decide that the meeting is still valuable, put together your agenda. By doing this, you reconsider inviting only the right participants. Additionally, there is another simple solution if you aim at saving even more of your participants' time.
It is called BDP (Basic Dynamic Participation). This is a simple way to invite only the relevant people, for the time they are needed, to participate in the meeting. Put together the agenda so that the attendees can leave the session after their topic has been discussed. An even more enhanced version of the same concept is the ADP (Advanced Dynamic Participation). The ADP implies inviting attendees entirely for their allocated time in the session. This makes the organisation of meetings a bit more complex, but it allows everyone to use their time in the most efficient and productive manner.
Distracted because of phone calls? Colleagues typing emails on their laptops? We all experienced it and probably caused the distractions ourselves. But if we aim at accelerating our meetings, it's time to change the rules:
By establishing rules of engagement, everyone has to focus on the meeting in progress. Eliminating distractions saves participants' time and increases the value of the discussions.
These rules are easy to understand and self explaining:
Let this become your, and your colleague’s new routine when organising meetings. Start experiencing the difference while you are getting time back, and avoiding unnecessary interruptions.
Did you ever experience a colleague holding a never ending speech? Make sure that everyone follows and respects the rules of meetings, like the agenda, especially when it comes to time management. As the meeting organiser, you have it in your power to control it by keeping the time. Set realistic duration requirements for every topic and do not forget to include time for the decision-making process. You should manage the time of the speaker (if he/she does not do it himself/herself) and, for example, announce the last two minutes remaining from their speech time, just like in a boxing match, where the bell rings in the last couple of seconds of the round. After a while, the attendees will internalise the new roles, however, you should always keep track to avoid falling back into the old scenario.
Scrutinise your agenda when you set it up. Are all the topics really necessary? If they are not, you should "park" them aside, instead of talking about them again and again. They will surface earlier or later, if they are actually relevant.
Don’t be afraid of requesting feedback. After a meeting, ask participants what they think about the outcome, and what changes they advise in future meetings. Try to create an environment where everyone can discuss openly and give and/or receive feedback. Maybe you will find out that some meetings are not even necessary at all? Do the change, and take a moment to think before you invite colleagues to sessions.
Meetings are important gatherings. Often, top management meetings enable directors and high level managers to express themselves and the results of their work. The better these leadership meetings are organised and managed the better the outcome is. In addition, this has a direct impact on participants' reputation as well2.
But, it is not about making meetings last as little as they can, but making them as focused and efficient as possible. As an organiser, you will see how thankful, involved and motivated everyone is because the meeting takes just the amount of time scheduled, and you will experience how attendees appreciate the time they get back.
When you think about how a Fortune 500 company invests 300’000h annually for its weekly management meetings, and that you have it in your power to decrease the level of frustration among your participants and limit the waste of time, then you should start making each of your meetings count.
If you want to know more about the meeting accelerator and how to boost your meetings' efficiency, let's get in touch.
1. Eunice Eun, Constance Noonan Hadley, Leslie A. Perlow. Stop the Meeting Madness. Harvard Business Review. April-May 2018.
2. Sherpany blog. The role of meetings in the strategy process. January, 2017.
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