Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making Meetings Productive

When you ask someone to attend an office meeting, a common response is a heavy sigh as an air of resignation settles over the other person. Why is that? Well, most surveys I have read indicate that people generally feel that most meetings are a waste of time. So how can you make your meetings more productive? Here are a few ideas:

Limit meetings to one hour or less. If a half-day or an all-day meeting is necessary, schedule breaks no more than an hour apart to allow participants the opportunity to move around, stretch, etc.

Avoid scheduling meetings over the lunch hour. For a “social” meeting, this may be acceptable, but holding a business meeting over lunch usually means that little actual business gets done.

Start your meetings on time and end them on time. If at all possible, end early. People always appreciate getting done sooner than expected.

Incorporate physical activity into the agenda. This is especially true for longer meetings. If that is not possible, make sure that participants have permission (and know they have permission) to stand and stretch if they need to.

Limit the number of topics to be discussed. This will make it easier for participants to prepare for the meeting, the meeting can retain focus, and there is less danger of “agenda creep”. For long meetings with many agenda items, this means limiting the number of topics you try to cover in between breaks.

Send out the agenda in advance. That way, people can prepare appropriately and know exactly what will be discussed. Afterwards, send out minutes or a re-cap to let people know what was decided or accomplished. This will help “tie it all together” for those who attended.

This short list is certainly not the “end all, be all” of making meetings productive and not all of them will be useful or useable all of the time. Use what you can; even one of these used consistently can help tremendously. If you want more ideas, entire volumes have been written on this subject – just check your local bookstore – but these are some of the main concepts I try to incorporate when advising clients on the structure and content of their meetings.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises