Let's face it, meetings can be a real drag. We all hate doing them, but we also feel they're a necessary evil to ensure people work well together. For such a straightforward concept--essentially a bunch of people in a room discussing an idea--we really do make a meal out of it sometimes.
With an average of 11 of our working hours spent in meetings each week, we really need to reduce the number of unnecessary meetings we're in and increase the productivity levels in the ones we simply can't avoid.
At Radiate, we initially found ourselves meeting happy. Then, we realized quickly 15-minute meetings had turned into two-hour-long talkfests.
We've since implemented some guidelines around meetings to maximize outcomes.
- Materials are dispersed beforehand, so people can read up and be prepared. This also helps make the meetings about exchanging thoughts and ideas versus catching everyone up on background.
- Each meeting is given 30 minutes max, except for creative/brainstorming ones, which tend to go on for longer.
- And as much as we like to chat, we keep the small talk to a minimum. I don't know how many meetings I've been in where 10-15 minutes of valuable time is spent talking about family, food, and vacations before getting down to business. We tend to leave that talk to the end when, miraculously, we may have finished on time!
At Radiate, we've asked our Experts how they run meetings effectively and here are some of my favorite answers:
- Keep it small. Have the "minimum number of people that must be there to accomplish that purpose," says Brad Keywell, the co-founder and CEO of Uptake Technologies.
- Have a purpose. Ask the question: "Was this meeting helpful, and what should we do differently in the next meeting?" says chairman and CEO of Alleycorp Kevin Ryan. This approach should help you practice the best meeting habits to get the most out of the room.
- Be strict. "You go to the table, and you get every single mind engaged," says legendary business leader Jack Welch. "If you have a meeting and somebody's there that can't contribute or won't contribute, don't have them in the meeting."
- Keep it clear. "We are very clear of what our goal is in the meeting and what our deliverables are coming out of the meeting," says Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments. "We need an agenda to really be able to keep us on track." Another way to keep meetings tight is to pre-read all the material needed before a meeting. "We've pre-read the same material before we walk into the meeting," she says.
- Create a sense of urgency. "Set a time that's short, set an agenda, have people standing up, and be very aware of the time," says Kat Cole, the group president of Focus Brands. This tactic makes meetings go a lot faster.
- Talk fast. Talk quickly so that people in the meeting will pick up on your urgency cues, says Chris Burch, founder of Burch Creative Capitol. "If I need people to move fast, I move my language fast."
- Have a leader. Choose one person to keep focus in the meeting. "Whoever is the leader in the room has to drive the pace of the conversation," says Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines.
- Keep a follow-up list. It is easy to go on tangents in meetings, Gail Mandel, head of Wyndham Destination Networks, says. She finds that follow-up lists are extremely effective for her meetings. "I don't want to squash innovation, but I also recognize that we have to respect each other's time, and that's the way I make sure that we stay on point."