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Management Series

Everyone who has worked in an office has had to sit through at least one. Everyone knows about those long rambling meetings that last for hours and go nowhere, sessions where people interrupt or dominate. Some even use the meeting as an opportunity for grandstanding and ego gratification. At its worse, it’s a space where people are forever checking their smart phones or taking calls and where everyone else is thinking about what else they could be doing. People will meet and talk and agree to meet again in a month’s time. No decisions will be made. We have all been there.

Endless meetings occur when managers and employees are unclear about what they want those meetings to achieve.

Creating effective meetings is about setting some ground rules. First and foremost is you have to be clear what the meeting will be about and what they want to achieve. More to the point, there has to be some clear ground rules that everyone in the company understands.

Here are some points to keep in mind. Managers and EAs need to keep this on hand. 

  • Is there a business case for this meeting? Does it make sense?  Or is it a waste of time? If it is, don’t hold the meeting. Put it off until there is a good case for having it. 
  • Circulate the meeting agenda. That means giving people time to prepare and read it. No one should be going into the meeting without having read it. 
  • What about roles and responsibilities. Who is going to chair it? Or keep time? Who will take minutes?
  • Manage the time of the meeting. Generally, people have an attention span of 20 to 30 minutes. Anything longer needs an agenda that’s circulated to everyone. A meeting running to an hour is usually about the maximum time people can remain engaged.
  • Be a good role model. For managers, that also means turning up on time.
  • Always start the meeting on time. If you wait for the latecomers, you are penalising the people who took the trouble to be punctual.
  • End on time
  • If a meeting is long, schedule breaks when people can check their email and phones.
  • If people are shy or hesitate, find a way to draw them out.
  • Making people look stupid only upsets people, makes you look bad and it’s not productive. 
  • Keep things on track and tightly focused.
  • Ban technology. Eyes up here. 
  • Be strict with time. If people are taking forever to make a point, you can bring them into line by saying something like: “That’s a great contribution but let’s see if others have any input.”
  • Manage focus. Keep people on track. Stick to the agenda.
  • Evaluate content and process of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, ask whether you achieved what you set out to do. Mark the meeting out of 10.  Is there room for improvement? How do you make the next meeting better?  
  • Circulate minutes, assignments and whatever else came out of meeting. That way, it gives everyone some ownership of the meeting.
  • Follow up.

After the meeting send out an email to everyone outlining what was covered in the meeting and setting out what tasks were given and what the deadlines are.

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