How to ensure more productive meetings in 2012

Lots of companies and marketing and sales teams are busy pulling together their master plans for the coming year. Often this means lots of onsite and offsite meetings. Meetings get a bad rap in business because people use them to avoid work, avoid decisions and to look busy.

In the spirit of starting the new year with a bang and doing things differently (better even) in your workplace, try giving some thought to the meetings you host and participate in.

As a host:

1. What decisions can be made without the need for a meeting? Email, file sharing, web and video conference can all be used to bring ideas to life with micro teams managing different project elements.

2. How can you manage expectation, secure the best input and minimise conflict – all in the shortest time? By being prepared. Expansive agendas and pre-reading usually assist this, but how many meeting hosts actually take the time to do this thoughtfully with the end goal in mind?

3. How critical is it that all the people involved need to be there in the room? Consider who makes decisions, who influences them and who is a ‘nice to have’. (Every person in one of your meetings for one hour is costing you two hours of productivity).

4. What tactics can you employ to keep the meeting short and on point? Think about employing pre-reading and preparation, detailed agendas, firm timekeeping, different venues, removal of chairs, tables, laptops and screens, removal of snacks, drinks, burst brainstorms and action focused takeaways.

5. What is needed after the meeting to ensure that decisions made are actioned? As the host you need to decide, and if necessary obtain buy-in from meeting participants to support you. At the very least, they should be kept up-to-date as a courtesy.

As a participant:

6. Can you be bold in fielding meeting requests and demand more from the host? Reduce the amount of time lost to meetings by being a little stricter with your time, for example by stringently focusing on the positive/negative impact on project delivery?

7. Can you add value? Establish quickly if it is a meeting you can add value to. There is no point attending to ‘hear it first hand’. That’s dead time.

8. Do you understand what is expected of you? If not, ask. If the host can’t tell you, politely decline. If you don’t have time to prepare, politely decline.

9. What is your involvement after the meeting? If you don’t get a definitive picture on this before you commit, the chances are you’ll have a whole load of work to do afterwards.

10. What’s in it for you long term? What are you going to get out of being involved?

Summary:

Sure, face-to-face contact is critical but in 2012, more than any other recent year, time is money. How are you going to ensure you keep projects moving forward, keep teams engaged and keep clients and customers happy without spending too  much time in unproductive meetings? Share your ideas below.