Most meetings are a waste of time.
I’m a big advocate of avoiding most of them, and focusing your time on the really important ones. It’s incredibly important to manage it properly and make it a success.
Make sure you focus 40% of your attention for each meeting on preparation and getting everything right before you meet, then 20% of your attention on the meeting itself – the time you’re all together – and then spend 40% of your attention on the follow through.
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND Rather than waiting until halfway through a meeting to work out what you think the outcome should be, start there. You’ll usually know. Even better, if you can begin your meeting with the answer to your question, not just the question, you then open up the meeting for a more focussed gathering of ideas.
FLOW With most meetings, the starting point is setting the scene: introductions to each other, to the topic and to the end point we have in mind. The middle stage is the exploration: discussion, questioning and beginning to form some agreements. The end of a meeting should be where you’ve clearly gone beyond discussion, and you’re into decisions, actions and agreeing the next practical steps forward. It’s easy to blur these boundaries without some good ‘markers’ to signpost the way.
HANDLING DIFFICULT AGENDA ITEMS – A great tip with managing flow is to strategically use the natural breaks in the day: a lunch break, a coffee break or the specified finish time. This means that rather than just being focussed on the issue, participants’ attention and collective enthusiasm for the fight are diverted towards their collective enthusiasm for a coffee or a nice sandwich and a piece of cake and if it does get a little heated, well you have the natural break in proceedings to calm everyone down, rather than that heat getting in the way of other agenda items.
ALLOW TIME FOR ‘WIGGLE ROOM’ – There are points in a meeting where difficulties or the need for additional time will arise from the oddest of places and there’s just no way you can predict these. Rather than trying to predict where this might happen, make a couple of agenda items nearer the end of the meeting slightly longer than you expect will actually be needed. This will give you the necessary wiggle room or safety net when other circumstances mean you are running over time.
LENGTH – Don’t set the times for meetings based on Outlook. Meetings should rarely need to be exactly 30 minutes or exactly 60 minutes (the default option offered by Outlook). What if the meeting only needs to be 20 minutes long? Not only are you saving everyone some time, you’re telling them that this meeting will be different, from the outset.
Post by guest author Graham Allcott
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