We spend an incredible amount of time in meetings. Need proof? Here is the amount of time, talent and dollars invested in U.S. meetings each year:
• Over 10 million business meetings take place every day.
• Most middle managers spend 30 percent of their time in meetings.
• Top management will spend up to 80 percent of their work week in meetings.
• Ninety percent of managers report that half of the meetings they attend are “either unnecessary or a complete waste of time.”
• If you spend just four hours a week in meetings you will sit through over 9,000 hours of meetings in your working lifetime—that’s over 365 days!
Before you invest another minute, ask these ten questions—in this order—to help you plan and participate in more effective meetings:
1. Why are we meeting? State the purpose of what you plan to accomplish in this single meeting in measurable objectives.
2. Who should attend? Which participants are needed to make a significant contribution to the meeting objective?
3. When and where should we meet? What time and place best suit the accomplishment of your purpose. Campbell's Soup once had a board marketing meeting in the back room of a grocery store. Board members were sent out to mingle with the customers to get feedback on products.
4. What do we need before the meeting? Every meeting must have an agenda. Make every effort to circulate the agenda, and pertinent meeting preparation materials, before the meeting so that participants arrive prepared.
5. How long should we meet? Meet only as long as it takes to accomplish the purpose. An article in Industry Week magazine recommends meetings last no more than 29 minutes and 59 seconds! (Think: “attention span.”)
6. How should we design the meeting? Meeting design includes time, space, room set up, audio visual, agenda, as well as decision making and communications processes. Design your meeting with a focus on achieving the purpose of the meeting and creating a synergistic environment.
7. Does everybody understand their role in the meeting? In the book How to Make Meetings Work Doyle and Straus introduced the interaction meeting method. They clearly defined roles for facilitator, leader, participant and recorder. These roles were designed to encourage meetings with open idea sharing, honest discussion, creative problem solving and decision making were needed.
8. How can we stay on track? Have an agenda with allocated time, process, and person(s) responsible for each agenda item. Use one flip chart to track non-agenda ideas that come up. Label the chart the “parking lot.” Capture ideas that aren’t on the agenda then get back on track.
9. How will we know if the meeting was effective? Throughout the meeting, gather assignments, commitments, deadlines and accomplishments on a flip chart that all participants can see. Review these lists at the end of the meeting to send the troops off with a clear idea of what was accomplished at this meeting, and what needs to be done. Evaluate every meeting to determine if meeting met the planning, processes, participation and outcomes goals.
10. Should we meet again? Review the “purpose,” “parking lot,” and “action calendar” to determine the “if, when, where, who, and how” of a future meeting. If the answer to question number ten is “yes,” start with question one and design your next effective meeting.
Precious time is spent each day in meetings committed to make our meetings in as effective as possible. Plan to make each meeting moment matter.
Jeri Mae Rowley, MS Human Resource Management is a professional speaker, trainer and author from Great Falls, Montana. She would be absolutely delighted if you copied this article and shared it with others. You can read more of her articles, and learn more about her many speaking and training topics, on her website: www.jerimaerowley.com.