Visualize the conference room at your workplace. You’re droning on to your co-workers about “recent developments” that didn’t change from yesterday, last quarter, last year.
But your co-workers are doodling. Squiggly lines, diagonal lines – a few are creative and draw goofy-looking caricatures that, oddly enough, resemble you.
However you draw it, you need strategies to improve meetings.
Avoid office-cooler gossip with an agenda
Prepare an agenda and email the agenda days – not minutes – before the meeting. This will give your co-workers time to prepare.
If, for example, the meeting is informative in nature and no problem needs to be solved, the agenda should provide bullet-points about the topics that will be discussed. In another example, a meeting that requires a definitive solution to a problem should note in the agenda what needs to be solved, possible solutions, and ask attendees to bring possible solutions to the meeting.
The agenda also serves as a way to steer conversation back to the subject at hand – especially if discussion turns into office-cooler gossip.
The clock rules
Schedule your meeting for a specific amount of time, then reduce the number by about 15 percent. A meeting schedule for an hour will last around 50 minutes, for example. With less time and an agenda, participants should be able to keep on task.
In the meeting room, set the alarm on your cell phone or bring a timer. When time is up, the meeting’s done. Don’t extend it into a marathon-length session if the issue didn’t get resolved or all the information communicated. The best solution is to reschedule another meeting for the appropriate length of time. But don’t fall into a trap of rescheduling meetings about previous meetings that rehash meetings of other meetings!
Is team effort needed?
Call a meeting only if it requires team effort or team communication. The meeting is a tool used to inform your co-workers and/or solve a problem with their help that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to solve on your own. Taking employees away from their daily tasks is expensive and a waste of time.
Improving the efficiency and productivity of your meetings may just keep your co-workers from doodling caricatures of you while listening to “recent developments.”