In my professional and personal life, I’ve been to more meetings than I could possibly count. Team meetings, staff meetings, strata meetings, parent-teacher meetings. You name it, I’ve been to a meeting for it. I’m a social person so I enjoy a good discussion as much as the next extrovert. A poorly run meeting, or one that didn’t have a solid purpose though, is soul destroying.
If you’ve ever been in one of these, you’ll know what I mean. Without a clear purpose, well-run discussion and meaningful outcomes, a meeting is just a time (and resource) waster for everyone involved. Here’s my simple ‘no or go’ meeting checklist – see if your next meeting passes the test!
Do we need to meet? Is this something that can be covered in an email or a regular newsletter? If you’re asking people to give up their time for a meeting, answer these two questions first. This especially applies to those spontaneous ‘can we just have a quick chat’ meetings that can turn into a half hour (or much longer) discussion.
Who should be there? Along with purpose, be clear about who really needs to be involved. Remember, this is people’s time (and money). People don’t need to be in the room to have input. You can consult with anyone who might be interested or affected, and just meet with the decision makers. There are loads of ways that people can contribute without giving up time to be at another meeting.
What’s on the agenda? A clear agenda (sent out before the meeting) gives everyone a road map to step logically through everything that needs to be covered. It also gives people a chance to think about any decisions that need to be made, before they come to the meeting.
Who’s running this thing? A skilled chair person is a must if you want to make the most of people’s time and keep everyone interested and on track. Ever been in a meeting where one or two people took all the air time? That’s a poorly run meeting. A skilful chairperson will keep the discussion productive, on track and make sure everyone who wants to contribute has a chance.
How long, how often and when? A quick meeting is a good meeting. Research says that after 30 minutes our attention drops significantly. If you can, you are better off having a 30-minute check in meeting twice a week, than a long meeting less often. Meet at the start of the working day; at the end of the day people have already ‘checked out’ and are tired. Start and finish on time, no exceptions. Waiting for late-comers is disrespectful to those who were on time.
Are we still sitting around this table? Standing meetings are better for our health (and creative problem solving) and mean you’re less likely to have meaningless chatter. If everyone is physically mobile in your team and can stand for 30 minutes, try meetings this way. Trial every second meeting standing as a start.
And while we’re talking about not sitting down, let’s talk about location. An alternative to the standing meeting is the walking meeting. Now I can hear you thinking ‘how’s that going to work with my team of 20?’ Relocate your meetings outside to a local park or café, even just once a month. Gather everyone at your workplace, make sure they know the agenda for the meeting and give them one or two agenda items to talk about on the way to your new location. We think more clearly and creatively when we are on the move, and exercise gets blood pumping around the body (including to our brain). Fresh air and being outdoors will give people a different perspective and is a mood booster.
May your next meeting be purposeful, productive and leave you feeling energised!