What Makes a Meeting Valuable?

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What Makes a Meeting Valuable?

Every employee, at some point in her career, has left a meeting wondering, "Couldn’t that have been accomplished with an email or memo? Why did the boss just waste my time?" Holding meetings too frequently, allowing them to ramble on too long, or having employees gather when you could have communicated things in a different manner give them a bad reputation. It’s doubtful you can do away with meetings altogether so it’s wise as an employer to make them impactful and efficient. Here are some tips to making your meetings more effective:

Determine appropriate criteria for holding a meeting

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Is this meeting’s purpose important and pertinent enough to take her away from her regularly scheduled tasks? Decide which issues are meeting-critical and which could be accomplished as well - or even better - with an email, memo or brief conversation in the hallway.

Create an agenda and share it with attendees beforehand

If you decide that, yes, a meeting is in order, put words to its purpose. What needs to be accomplished, discussed, determined, caught up on? Who has been invited to attend? Outline the scope of the meeting and provide a general list of how employees can best prepare themselves for it. Knowing the agenda in advance helps employees come into the meeting with a sense of comfort and purpose.

Develop a meeting framework

Avoid "playing it by ear" when you’re gathered. Have a convenient time and place, assure comfortable, appropriate seating. Assign meeting management roles before the start to ensure someone’s keeping track of the time and the agenda, and someone is taking the minutes. If someone besides yourself is in charge of running a part or all of the meeting, make sure they follow this pre-established framework for consistency’s sake.

Control meeting attendance carefully

Keep the attendees to any meeting at a bare minimum. Invite only critical personnel. If the meeting isn’t pertinent to an employee, she’ll resent having to attend and won’t be a valuable contributor to the discussion. A group of no more than eight is ideal; enough to generate some useful discourse, but not so many that people’s ideas get lost in the shuffle or that an individual may feel intimidated by the crowd. Be sure to get the "ok" if you invite someone who works under a different manager to avoid showing disrespect for their projects and deadlines by taking up their employee’s time.

Schedule brief, impactful meetings

Always determine the length of a meeting beforehand - then stick to it! Long meetings don’t accomplish more; they simply overload or bore attendees. Keep them short and to the point. They’ll be more energized and effective because when employees know it’s only, say, a half hour of their day, they’ll come into it with a better outlook and attitude. Rather than feeling imposed upon and dragged out of their day, they’ll appreciate that you value their time.

Work on your presentation beforehand

To get a feel for how long is appropriate to schedule for a meeting, some practice is necessary. Go through the talking points, make sure you have clear guidelines and that you are able to implement your agenda as previously determined. Be certain you know how to use any technology you intend to employ - and make sure electronics work as expected to minimize any technical gaffes.

Begin and end meetings on a positive note

The tone for your entire meeting will be set by how you begin. Ask each participant about a recent win or pleasant surprise they’ve had on the job. Even if the purpose of the meeting is to discuss a problem, attendees will feel more comfortable when they’ve been able to speak briefly about a positive experience - and hear their coworkers do the same. Likewise, at the end of the meeting, ask each participant to name a positive takeaway from the discussion. It will help cement the meeting’s purpose into employees’ minds and help them transition back into their day more gracefully.

Some other suggestions for improving the quality of your meetings include:

  • Hold standing meetings which give employees a chance to get up and move during the day. Standing is a more assertive stance which energizes minds and facilitates greater attention and participation.
  • Minimize distracted participants by collecting their electronics at the door.
  • Collect brainstorming ideas anonymously so participants feel freer to share more completely and without judgement.

Meetings aren’t going anywhere, but why not make the ones that can’t be avoided fewer and more valuable for everyone concerned? These tips will help improve both employee willingness to attend and the overall productivity of meetings.

How do you hold meetings at your company?

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