"Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything." observed American economist John Kenneth Galbraith.
If Galbraith's quote makes you smile and nod in agreement, you're not alone.
Meetings are a necessary part of every organization. They are where plans are made, goals are set, and reports are given. They offer the opportunity for dialogue and problem solving, as well as the chance to get to know colleagues better. They can even make people laugh. When conducted well, meetings can help everyone be more productive. Sounds great, doesn't it?
But if your organization is like most others, meetings are a dreaded black hole, sucking time and energy from the attendees. You leave meetings feeling frustrated, wishing you could have used the time for "real" work. According to Dean Newland, CEO of Mission Facilitators International, poorly run meetings also cost big bucks:
Each day, 11 million meetings take place in the United States, or 2.6 billion in a year. Based on an average salary of $30 per hour, the U.S. spends $80 billion on meetings each year. (The amount is probably higher, since most meetings involve more than two people.)
Research says that 37.5 percent of all meetings are considered "poorly run or unnecessary," which would equal $30 billion a year of unproductive meetings.
Next time you're running a meeting, consider these tips:
1. Prepare for the meeting
What's the purpose? Once you know the goals, establish an agenda. If your organization doesn't have an agenda template, this is the perfect time to implement one. List the topics, who will be presenting each one, and the time allotted for each topic. With an agenda, you can determine who should be there--only invite people who can move the agenda forward. If there are materials for a topic, they should be distributed two days prior. People should come to the meeting prepared to make the most of their time together.
2. Use the meeting to promote discussion and make decisions
You may be surprised--and pleased--to know that the use of PowerPoint during meetings is discouraged; it slows the pace and can be distracting. A single slide or two of data for visual purpose is fine, but no more endless, boring presentations. By establishing a time frame for each agenda item, you can now keep discussions going and redirect attention as necessary. You may even want to try a stand-up meeting! People are energized and focused; rambling sidebar conversations disappear. Assign ownership to action items, as well as deadlines. By the end of the meeting, there should be no "orphan items" without someone responsible for completing them and reporting back to the group.
3. Send the list of action items--and deadlines--again after the meeting
Although everyone should leave the meeting on time and be clear about responsibilities, your follow-up email will serve as a reminder. Rather than wait until the next meeting, people can send their reports to the others by email. This prevents the same agenda items from appearing again and again at future meetings.
Learning how to run an effective meeting can change your organization, increase job satisfaction, and actually boost productivity. Now that sounds better, doesn't it?
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