Are effective meetings prevalent enough? A recent survey conducted by Moo Print Ltd has shown that Britain is obsessed with meetings as the average worker is now spending 213 hours a year — or 26 working days — attending them. What is it costing our economy when people are spending this amount of time of their working week in meetings? Especially as at least a third of that time is entirely wasted according to the study.
When is it too many meetings?
Whilst too many meetings impact on productivity, especially if those meetings are poorly run; lack of communication or no meetings can be equally damaging. The key is to ensure effective meetings.
If meetings do not have successful outcomes, this can be costly for all concerned. It requires great skills to create the right thinking environment, achieve full participation by those present, and stimulate creative thinking to resolve problems. It also requires accountability to make sure things happen as a result.
Training for Meetings
In our bespoke Managing Effective Meetings workshop we look at the various aspects that can provide effective productive outcomes for your business. Chairing a meeting effectively is not easy and the best person may not be the most senior person or the one who called the meeting. There is real skill in holding attention and managing personalities, as well as ensuring accountability and actions.
Another way to improve your skills is to join a Toastmasters International group, where you learn about timely meetings and get constructive feedback on your abilities. I have found it invaluable.
Questions to ask if invited to a meeting
One way to ensure it is worth attending a meeting is to ask the following questions:
- What is the meeting about?
- What is the purpose of the meeting? (information, action, discipline, etc.)
- What are the expected outcomes?
- Do I need to be there? (for the whole time/part of the time)
- How does it involve me?
- What contribution can I make?
- What benefit is there in my attending?
- Do I need to prepare anything beforehand?
- Are there any outstanding issues from a previous meeting?
- Is there anything I would like to add to the agenda?
Asking these questions of the person organising the event can make them prepare better. If you are the organiser, I recommend you know the answers.
Avoiding the Time Wasters and Irritations
The Moo study identified key time wasters and irritants for attendees. It may seem like common sense but here are some tips.
- Late Arrivals.
Do you start your meetings on time or wait for everyone to arrive? The problem with waiting is that it sets up a mindset that it doesn’t matter if you are late. Lateness can be very frustrating for those who have respectfully arrived early or at the correct time. If you start on time every time then people may get the message. Obviously if you are waiting for clients or guest speakers, then you have to start when they are there. You could have a contingency for filling in while you wait so the time isn’t wasted.
- Setting up Technology
If anything is going to let you down, it is most likely to be equipment, which is getting more and more sophisticated. This is all about preparation and making sure you are set up and ready to go well in advance of the start time. With more virtual meetings, it can be about other people’s technology working too. Expectations can be that they check this well in advance of the meeting start time.
I was recently on a virtual meeting where one of the attendees was in a pub, so the background noise was dreadful! Setting expectations beforehand can help remove this problem.
- Finding the Meeting Room and Having Enough Seats
Again, this is about proper preparation and providing the appropriate level of information to attendees. If you are on your home turf, it is easy to assume people know where things are. How about having someone who meets and greets attendees?
- Holding Attention
This is the biggest challenge in the current age of smart technology, which can be a great distraction. Meeting etiquette can be agreed. Half of attendees admit they daydream during meetings. This suggests that the information is not relevant or interesting to them or not being delivered in an inspiring way. Remember to K.I.S.S. – keep it short and simple. It is better to avoid office jargon or management speak. It can be fun to have a ‘fine’ box, which means every time someone uses jargon, acronyms or clichés, they get fined and the money goes to a worthy cause.
Find innovative ways to get information across and to involve people or use innovative ways to change the meeting format. Do they all need to be there all of the time?
- Speaking Over Each Other
I’ve attended many meetings where whoever shouts loudest gets heard. Professor Neil Rackham identified the kinds of behaviours that occur in meetings. Using his categories, I recorded 100 interruptions in 10 minutes in one meeting, mostly carried out by one person. This can close other people down, especially the introverts. It is often the quiet people who have the most considered and worthwhile things to say, if given a chance.
If you would like a sheet to explain and measure the behaviours in your meetings, then please contact me.
Managing the Meeting Zoo!!
Characters at a meeting can be very individual and likened to animals in a zoo. If you are Chair, you need to be aware who you have in the meeting and manage them appropriately.
LION – the Chair needs to be like the king of the jungle with the respect of everyone else there and the strength of character to control the meeting. It is not about being dominant and ‘eating people alive’! There may be more powerful people in the room who will attempt to challenge this leadership role.
SCORPION – This character tends to sit at the far corner and will come in with a sting or curved ball to catch you out. It’s a bit of a sniper position.
SNAKE – Like the scorpion, this character can have a bite and also be very slippery to pin down to facts and accountabilities.
PIG – This is the personality which likes to hog the limelight and take all the air time.
BUTTERFLY – Often the creative soul, with a short attention span which likes to flit from topic to topic. Keeping them focused can be tricky.
RAT – This character likes to drop everyone else in it and blame them. Nothing is ever their fault. When the going gets tough, they may abandon ship!
SHEEP – These just go along with the group thinking and don’t want to rock the boat, so getting their views before the meeting may lead to some real insights.
Let me know if you would like information on how to manage these characters and more.
Effective meetings, with a clear purpose, outcomes and actions, which are well planned and managed are essential, because they enhance communication, teamwork and productivity. Therefore, why not make sure your meetings do this?
If you would like further information on effective meetings, do please contact me.