7 steps to more effective meetings

Demand Better Meetings

Businesses are always looking for ways to be more efficient and make employees more productive. Smart phones and tablets connect us to our customers and our bosses; productivity software lets us keep track of orders, complaints, and prospective customers; email lets us share information and updates. But most of us don’t think about how we can improve productivity by improving our meetings.

There are two basic kinds of “traditional” meetings: meetings to exchange information, which are only helpful if we can ask questions and receive correct answers; and brainstorming meetings, which can be stressful and quickly taken over by the most vocal members.

So I was very interested to come across “Read This Before Our Next Meeting: The Modern Meeting Standard for Successful Organizations” (2011) speaker, blogger, and founder of The Modern Meeting Company Al Pittampalli. He states emphatically that we’ve come to accept mediocre meetings, which create a culture of compromise, waste our time, and kill our sense of urgency.

Pittampalli urges us to refuse to tolerate bad meetings, to hold conversations whenever possible, and to follow a new standard for meetings, which incorporate some of the best practices for effective meetings.

Here are 7 principles for more effective modern meetings:
1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made. Be open to conflict (even foster conflict that hasn’t occurred yet) and coordinate an action plan.
2. Move fast and end on schedule. Politely shut down distractions and tangents. “Strong deadlines force parties to resolve the hard decisions necessary for progress” (page 27).
3. Limit the number of attendees. Invite people who have strong opinions, a vested interest in the outcome, and are instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place.
4. Reject the unprepared. Meeting leaders must have an agenda, and meeting attendees must prepare beforehand and be ready to participate.
5. Produce committed action plans. Decide what actions to do, who is responsible, and when it will get done. Then follow up.
6. Refuse to be informational. Read the memo, it’s mandatory. Communicate effectively before the meeting, with well-thought out information and true priority.
7. Work with brainstorms, not against them. For brainstorming sessions, invite people who are passionate about the idea but have nothing to lose; praise liberally; have fun; and write it all down.

The Art of Manliness blog has one tip that I would add: bring bagels or donuts. But don’t let people eat until the meeting is over.

How productive are your business meetings? In your experience, what are the key ingredients of an effective meeting? How much more could you accomplish if you didn’t have to attend meetings? 

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