Meetings: a practical alternative to work

November 17, 2016 10:08 am
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A calendar reminder surfaces on the screen for the fifth time today; 15 minutes until ‘Generic Meeting #5’ of the day commences; a quick flick of the mouse; snooze and sigh.

Although there are still 15 minutes to go, the disruption of the meeting has already begun. A cynical view, perhaps, yet meetings account for an increasing number of hours in our working day, with most employees considering them a waste of time. So how can we transform a dysfunctional meeting into an effective one?

New research from Epson and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has found workers waste 2 hours and 39 minutes in meetings every week and this is costing businesses an estimated £26 billion a year.

The report found that if these wasted hours had been spent productively this would equate to roughly 13 million more productive hours per week and an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately 1.7 per cent.

According to a survey of U.S. professionals, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer.

Try following this simple 5 step plan of meeting effectiveness to reclaim your day and that of your colleagues:

  1. Consider the meeting’s objectives

An effective meeting serves a specific and defined purpose. Before planning for a meeting, the focus must be on the objective. To determine the objective, try completing this sentence;

“At the close of the meeting, I want the group to…”

 A clearly defined outcome can then be supported by suitable content.

One way to support this is to be action focused throughout, using ‘actions’ to strengthen the overarching objective. Take actions for all matters which are not on-track/unsatisfactory and use these to sustain improvement. Actions are a great way of ensuring meetings maintain their value, whilst keeping attendees engaged.

  1. Invite the right people

When establishing a meeting, think about who really needs to be there. If you’re not sure of your own judgement, just ask other people for their opinion also. Remember, more attendees does not equal a better meeting. If attendance is not necessary, follow up with a memo for those who only need to be informed of the meeting outcomes.

Before the meeting, always be sure to brief attendees on the purpose of the meeting and why their attendance is important. If you can’t justify their attendance, then cancel the invite.

  1. Develop an agenda

An agenda is pivotal to running an effective meeting. It provides structure, timeliness, and roles for participants of the meeting. Use it as an opportunity to get immediate engagement; who will chair? who will scribe actions?

The agenda needs to support the outcomes identified for the meeting. It should capture the activities needed to realise the outcomes successfully, doing so in a pragmatic flow. Utilise this structure to further engage all participants by involving them early on with something to do. Develop an agenda that promotes the meeting you want to happen.

  1. Establish ground rules

A Code of Conduct creates a reference point for behavioural expectations. Introduce a code of conduct which encourages;

  • Participation
  • Following the agenda
  • One person speaks at a time
  • Action focus
  • Banning all technology
  • Start on time/end on time

And remember – take no hostages. There is always the possibility for one person to hijack a meeting by talking more than their fair share. Should this happen, call them out by saying, “We appreciate your contribution, but let’s now consider the opinion of others…”. Don’t be shy about it. Setting early ground rules gives clarity to the behaviours expected.

  1. Evaluate & close out

Once all is said and done, how successful was the meeting? Before releasing participants back into the wild, be sure to use some form of appraisal. This will allow you to continue to make subtle changes to ensure the meeting strives to be effective. Some suggestions would be;

  • Meeting close out form – appraise against specific criteria
  • ‘Round table’ approach – quickly capturing attendees’ feedback in the room
  • Have each participant rank the meeting 1-5

When closing out, always end on time. Ensure you leave 5-10 minutes to capture the above feedback before time is up. Confirm how minutes or actions will be communicated and followed up – just because the meeting is over, doesn’t mean the work is done!

In Summary

Now briefed with some key success factors required to host an effective meeting, try reviewing your current state and see if there may be areas for alteration. If you can create a meeting with a clear structure, defined objectives and good behaviours, you may just become the saviour who bucks the meeting-phobia trend.


Written by Arron Delamare, Coriolis Consulting Pty Ltd