Skip the black hole of time suckage and make everyone happier.
Meetings are a great way for people to work together. They can also be a massive black hole, sucking time and the will to live from participants! You can easily avoid another black hole with this simple guide:
Start by working out if you actually need a meeting. Do you need to:
- share information?
- solve a problem?
- gather information?
- provide training?
- make a decision?
Then you need a meeting!
Next is your guest list – who really needs to attend? Limit your meeting to no more than 10 participants, and allow people to opt out if they believe they don’t need to be there. This way everyone who attends will be engaged and more productive.
Are you going to be in charge of this meeting or do you need to assign someone else to facilitate? The presider should have ownership of the meeting and its overall outcome. This person has to create a welcoming environment, facilitate the meeting and activities, stick to the agenda, and may also be the ultimate decision-maker.
Being prepared before the meeting will help it to take a minimal amount of time. Set an agenda with assigned tasks to be completed before the meeting and distribute in advance. Have your participants bring solutions rather than problems to the meeting.
When you book your meeting room allow time to set-up and pack-up. On the day, set up your room to suit the needs of the meeting. You will need pens and notepads for each participant as well as plenty of post-it notes, marker pens, blu-tak, a flip-chart and whiteboard. Check that the projector is working and that your laptop connects. And don’t forget the snacks and drinks!
Nobody wants to spend more time than they have to in a meeting, so keep it short and sweet. Put a time limit on your meeting and stick to it. Short meetings force people to be concise and to work within the time constraints.
Psychologists have proven that the way a meeting starts sets the overall tone for the meeting. To kick it off on a positive note try sharing a relevant anecdote or a successful outcome of the last meeting.
We don’t need some expert to tell us that our attention-spans have shrunk, but the bad news is that most adults can only stay focused for 10 minutes!
Scheduling in regular breaks, ideally 2 minutes at the half-hour and 5 minutes at the hour, will boost engagement. For longer meetings you’ll also need to allow sufficient time for a proper lunch break.
Another way to keep participants focused is to get them involved. One idea is to line the walls with different problems to solve, posed as “How can we…?” questions. Participants then walk around and use their post-it notes to add their suggestions.
The end of the meeting isn’t the end. You’ve got three important things to do now. First, make sure everyone walks away with action items relevant to their expertise and a deadline for completion. Second, take photos of all your creative ideas and collate any notes by theme. And third, keep everyone up-to-date with the outcome of the meeting and any decisions that come from it. This will help them to feel like their time and input were valued.