Meetings can be the biggest waste of time ever conceived. They can rob a project team of doing productive work, waste money and strip the team of morale. I’ve seen some exceptionally bad meetings in my time, in fact this article is inspired by one I went to recently that was perhaps the most soul destroying, pointless, badly managed meeting I have ever had the displeasure of being invited to. But I’ve also seen really good meetings. What is the difference?
Well, a good meeting has a purpose, people come prepared, stay focussed, stick to an agenda and get real value from the meeting. It serves as a forum for resolving issues, making decisions and team building.
A bad one is where people turn up unprepared, people are there who don’t need to be there, several people start having a conversation that they could have before or after the meeting, there is no accountability and no real reason for the meeting to happen. The room is filled with bored, disinterested people wishing they were somewhere else. Do any of these sound familiar? If so, then you are probably in a bad meeting. Think for a moment about the people in the room and their charge out rates. Add these up and you may be surprised about how much that meeting is costing to run – are you getting value for money?
First, before holding any meeting can you justify getting these people together? Is a meeting the best way to get the results you want? Do you know the result you want? There are plenty of other ways to discuss issues, have debates, exchange ideas, catch up on personal lives and waste precious time – meeting don’t have to be your first port of call.
So, once you have decided that there is merit in holding a meeting, set some ground rules:
- Set a date and time,
- Send out an agenda – and stick to it
- Leave non agenda items for last or for outside of the meeting.
- Start on time – if you don’t you let people know it’s ok to turn up late and they will always turn up late. If people do turn up late note this on the minutes, they won’t do it too often.
- Finish on time – if you don’t, people won’t turn up to future meetings
- Only have the people who need to be there for the time they need to be there – let them go when their contribution is no longer needed
- Don’t go longer than an hour – people can’t concentrate that long, even after 30 minutes you should consider supplying food and drinks.
- Don’t let people talk over each other.
- If irrelevant discussion starts politely suggest people stay behind after the meeting to discuss or catch up at some other time.
- Have someone take good concise minutes and circulate them after.
Try these rules and you may end up actually getting value from a meeting. I would love to hear from you about your best and worst meeting experiences and tips.