How To Get The Most From Meetings

Good meetings are an essential part of any organisation’s success. Bad meetings waste time and are harmful to making decisions. But how can you increase the former and reduce the latter?

Time well spent

Many things can be done to improve the time spent in meetings. The starting point is to have fewer meetings, avoid others, and reduce the cycle of essential meetings.In the first instance, when you’re invited to a meeting don’t assume it is more important than spending time in another way. One way to consider the need for a meeting is to read a summary of the issues in advance to decide on its relevance. Just because a meeting is arranged doesn’t mean it is a good use of time when compared to doing something else. Make a deliberate decision whether or not to attend rather than drift along as a matter of habit. Similarly, look at the organisation’s plan of meetings for the year and consider whether it can be revised. In some instances, matters can be dealt with by email and the number of meetings reduced by better day-to-day communication.

Time badly spent

Many informal meetings are held in doorways and corridors and prove useful to keep in touch. But when such meetings happen too often or take up too much time they need to be culled. Having an open door policy, working in an open plan office or shared space can help the flow of information and improve communication. But it is equally important to give full attention to some issues, which means working without interruption. This can be done by arranging informal meetings at certain times of the day while leaving other times for undisturbed work. Reducing the time allowed for meetings helps too, as many take longer than necessary and saving 30 minutes per meeting is often possible without affecting the quality of decisions. Once everyone understands a meeting will start and stop on time shorter meetings are possible and more productive than longer meetings that lack the discipline of a deadline. Meeting less often and scheduling meetings on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis also helps to avoid wasting time.

In some cases, it is useful to have a reason to leave meetings early if they are running on too long. This demonstrates a personal commitment of time and concentrates the minds of others, as it signals there are other issues of importance to the organisation. If the meeting is an infrequent affair such as a strategy session it is helpful to use an external facilitator to make sure everything runs smoothly. Finally, it is vital to have a well-structured and clear agenda to get everyone focussed on what really matters.

So, meetings are a vital part of any organisation’s success but reducing the amount of time wasted brings tremendous rewards for any business.