Raise your hand if you like meetings. Even at the finish line of a marathon, that is a question sure not to cause a stink. (Get it? Marathon…sweaty people…stink? OK, good.)
Whether you are one of the eleven people worldwide who raised their hand to that question or you are like the 99.9999% of us who hate meetings, you want them to be better. So I brought in Tom Dixon to offer some helpful tips.
Tom left a great comment a few weeks ago in my post, Do This in Your Next Meeting. It Works.
One trick I’ve learned as a meeting participant is to play back one or two sentences that recap what I’ve taken away from the discussion…this can be helpful to others to solidify what was discussed as well as a chance for the group to clarify any points I didn’t get right.
Tom normally writes at his blog, Monday is Good where he offers practical career help. He believes it is possible to look forward to Monday. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter too. You won’t regret it.
Here are Tom’s tips:
Working for a large company, I go to a lot of meetings.
Some are incredibly productive, while others are a big waste of time. I avoid having a meeting if at all possible, but many times it’s the most effective way to solve a problem or share information.
Fortunately, there are things you can do as either a leader or an attendee to make the most of the meetings you attend.
You no doubt already know that meetings should:
- Include only the relevant participants who have something to contribute.
- Have a published agenda ahead of time, including pre-reads.
- Start and finish on time.
- Have written minutes and action items published within 24 hours.
Assuming those ground rules, I want to share some suggestions that changed the way I do meetings:
- Decline more. If there is no clear agenda, or reason for the meeting, then hit the decline button. If asked why, tell the truth – you have multiple demands on your time, and were not able to prioritize the meeting into your schedule without an agenda. This is uncomfortable the first time you do it, especially if you are an individual contributor. You will need to use discretion, but it will pay off if done correctly. As a manager myself, there is nothing that would impress me more than my team doing this.
- Be prepared. You need to prepare for every meeting you go to. This is a personal accountability thing. Doing your homework is a sure way to have a productive discussion, and you will get noticed.
- Lose the chairs. Sometimes meetings last longer than they have to because people are too comfortable. Try removing the chairs from the room, and see if you can’t get a sixty minute meeting done in thirty.
- Practice active listening. Spend twice as much time listening as talking. Contribute where appropriate, but listen more. When someone voices an opinion that you disagree with, first focus on what it would mean if the other person is right and you are wrong. Then talk.
- Summarize. I had a leader in the past who modeled a great technique. As each meeting was wrapping up, he would summarize the entire thing in one or two sentences. It was incredible to see how he boiled down an hour of discussion into one concise point. The benefits were immediate – we knew he “got it”, everyone left on the same page, and we all knew what the outcome was. You don’t have to be the meeting leader to do this. The benefits are just as real when a meeting participant summarizes the main points for the group.
Meetings have a bad reputation as time drains and productivity killers, but they can be effective. Their value rises and falls with the leaders involved. With these tips, you can make an impact on meeting effectiveness from any level.
What techniques have you found to make meetings more effective?