Irrespective of whichever industry you belong to, you must have been a victim of at least one mismanaged meeting. Meetings are supposedly the best way to brainstorm and bring about a melting pot of ideas to be better efficient. However, mismanaged meetings often tend to do just the opposite. In fact, sometimes derailed meetings actually continue endlessly without any positive outcomes whatsoever.
Here are a few ways you can bring your meetings back on track without seeming too authoritarian.
Have a leader/coordinator
To ensure that the meeting is structured and is proceeding well, someone has to moderate it. It is generally the senior most person in the meeting, or it could be the person who has called it. It is his/her responsibility to ensure that it is not a dead-end meeting and agenda of the meeting is achieved. However it is tough, but you can become an effective leader.
Know the purpose
Know where to start so that you know where to end as well! Have a clear agenda for the meeting and send it across to the participants beforehand. Be specific about the points of discussion in the meeting. Make it clear whether you will be discussing a project progress summary, review report or final timelines. Do not forget to mention any reports, ideas or documents the participants need to carry to the meeting.
Know your team
When you know the agenda, you will also gain an understand of who should and should not be participating in the meeting. Having unnecessary people is only going to make it time-consuming. Ask only relevant team members to attend the meeting and then send a memo to the rest of the team with the minutes of what was discussed. The participants may also choose to have separate meetings with other team members later, if required.
Arrive upon an effective meeting etiquette
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, says it is important to ensure that the conversation remains relevant, no one dominates the discussion, and adjunct discussions are taken offline. In his article about the importance of defining semantics for a meeting, he writes:
“Words have power, and as such, it's worth investing time upfront to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of what certain keywords, phrases, and concepts mean to the various constituencies around the table.”
Decide on convenient meeting times
Do not fix a meeting at an unsuitable time for your team, unless it is an emergency. However, having meetings towards the end of the day has sometimes given better results. Many studies state that it is an unconventional way to ensure that a meeting doesn't stray off-course.
Decide on proper meeting durations
Keep the duration of the meeting short, preferably less than half an hour. Most people can give undivided attention for a maximum period of 18 minutes at a stretch. This is why TED talks are always less than 18 minutes. Yahoo follows a strict 10-minute policy for meetings, and Percolate follows a 15-minute policy. Set a reasonable duration and stick to it. 37 Signals, the company that built BaseCamp, recommends that you set a timer and abide by it.
Avoid mobile phones
Do not let the team be distracted by calls or notifications on their mobiles. The Cabinet meetings at the White House also follow this rule. The members write their names on sticky notes, stick it on their phones and leave the phones in a basket near the door of the meeting room.
End it well
Ensure that your team members are clear about the conclusion drawn in the meeting. From Apple to the Toastmasters, the world’s most successful organisations demand that attendees leave meetings with actionable tasks.
This way you are going to be able to ensure that all the meetings that are conducted in your office are effective. If you think there are other hacks to having an effective meeting, please tell us on the comments below.