Most people dread the idea of going to meetings. Meetings typically always go on too long, and discussions go in circles. After stifling yawns for what feels like an eternity you walk out of the meeting wondering what was the point exactly?
Unfortunately meetings are often necessary. The question is how can you conduct and participate in meetings so that they become more productive and more enjoyable? Here are a few simple tips.
Choose your venue carefully
A dark stuffy room with no ventilation or windows is an open invitation for yawn city. If possible use a meeting room that has windows and air-conditioning. Fresh air can help people stay more alert and a more open environment invites active participation.
Have jugs of ice water, tea or coffee available for meeting participants. It’s far easier to focus on what someone is saying when you have a glass of water or cup of tea to sip on. It also helps to refresh people and keep them more alert.
Define a realistic timeframe for the meeting. If giving a presentation keep it to 20 minutes or less, with as much time afterwards for questions and discussion. Consider the items on the agenda and how much discussion will take place around each one. If there are more than 4 points to discuss rather schedule a second meeting later on. It’s far easy for people to stay focussed when then have just a few discussion points to consider.
Keep a strict eye on the time and manage discussions. Advise the group of the time limit at the beginning of each discussion item. When that time is almost up do a time check and wrap up the discussion. If more detail is needed, assign tasks and schedule a follow up meeting rather than dragging the agenda out.
Outline the agenda and time frames
Set the framework for the meeting by outlining the agenda and objectives at the start of the meeting. Be clear about what you hope to achieve and what you’d like from each of the participants. Remind them that discussions need to be short and to the point and that you will interrupt if individuals are hogging the discussion. A quirky trick is to use an egg timer. When someone starts to talk they flip it over and they must have made their point by the time it runs out.
Keep discussions on track
Often what happens in meetings is that people get side tracked, and before you know it the discussion has gone way off the point. If this starts to happen cut the discussion short and bring it back on topic. If it’s a relevant point, minute it for another discussion at another time. Meetings will immediately become more productive when the focus is retained.
Meeting wrap up
Make sure that the meeting ends on time. It’s when meetings run on that people start to lose focus because they are thinking of other things they need to be doing instead. At the end of the meeting, summarize discussion points and decisions made. Also reconfirm specific tasks that have been assigned to particular individuals and decide on a time frame for delivery. Finally, thank people for their participation and advise when the next meeting will be held.
When meetings are held in a productive way, people won’t mind participating. They will know that their time will be well spent and will come away either having learnt something, or feeling their input was valued. Active, constructive meetings don’t give people time to yawn, and in the end will build a better corporate culture for your business.