3 Factors for Effective Meetings

3 Factors for Effective Meetings

Business meetings can be a real annoyance and are one of the biggest wastes of time throughout a business. They are both long, and mostly unnecessary. People become distracted, time limits are not met, and result in little to no action. This article will target to counter all of these negative aspects of business meetings. They can be productive, fulfilling, short, effective, and fun! Great preparation, effective meetings, and a thorough follow-up are the three central topics discussed in this article.

Great Preparation

The beginning of an effective meeting should, in most cases, be the end of it. Think about the need for the meeting, what is its goal? Is it really necessary to speak this over in person? Or are other alternatives a better solution, for instance email. When the purpose of a meeting is solely to inform others, not to discuss or make decisions, sending out an email with the same information can be many times more effective. Another alternative is a quick phone call. If you need to share or discuss some information with only a few people, calling them shaves off decision time. When you yourself are invited to attend a meeting, consider your necessity at that meeting, and contemplate the alternative ways you can more easily contribute.

When you have decided to call a meeting, make sure that only the people who need to be there, are there. They will most likely be most invested in the topic you are discussing. A small engaged group also allows for more effective decision making during the meeting. The select group that you have invited should have had the proper preparation. This means that you have sent the agenda in advance, and have attached all the relevant documents. This easily shaves off 30 minutes of every meeting concerned with getting everyone up to speed. Do also share your powerpoint (if there is one), this will allow for people to get a general view of the presentation and will focus their attention on you, instead of the screen, when presenting.

Effective Meetings

Effective meetings start with the right facilities. Without a beamer, the presentation will not be possible. And without the presentation itself, you are dead in the water. Effective meetings take place in an appropriate setting where technological needs are met. As a presenter, you will have your presentation on USB and email. And other technical requirements, like cables and markers, are available. Good facilities allow for optimal support of effective meetings.

The goal of a meeting should be the guiding star during the meeting. Misunderstanding the goal of a meeting could result in a large clash between co-workers. When some think about discussing a point, others ready to make decisions, and still others only to inform, your meeting will not go smoothly. Making clear what the goal of a meeting is can prevent these troubles. And when the meeting requires multiple steps, (e.g. informing and making a decision) then clearly indicate at which step you are. A clear goal during a meeting will result in streamlined cooperation, in which each goal can be pursued effectively.

In support of the goal of your meeting is the agenda. Without an agenda, there will be no direction to the meeting, and it will end without direction or goal. An agenda serves multiple goals. The first is to define the parameters of what you will discuss, and what not! It will also give structure, preferably with important points at the beginning. And when your agenda is really complete, it will also indicate the amount of time the meeting will take. With an agenda, you will define the meeting, give it direction, structure and also help with preparations.

As the chairman of a meeting, you care responsibility over the time. Set a starting time (and start at that time), and set an end time. Make sure that everyone gets to say their word. Even encourage shy people to participate. But refrain from repetition, once something is said, it has no purpose of being repeated. Of course, there is room for conclusions. These conclusions will mostly consist of calls to actions (tasks). An effective leader takes good care of the time, speed, and action list.

All participants of a meeting share responsibility for the direction of their attention. Distracted participants ensure an ineffective meeting in which people will not give each other the attention they deserve. This can be a result of multitasking (e.g. answering your email), having your head in the clouds, or being distracted by something. Making it a rule not to bring cell phones, only inviting the people who need to be there, letting go of unrelated thoughts, and eliminating distractions will counter these processes. In effect, this will lead to attentive participants who have a continuous focus on an effective meeting.

Thorough Follow-Up

No matter how effective a business meeting was, the real work has to happen outside of the meeting (and because of that, the time spent in them should be minimal). An effective leader follows up on the tasks that result from the meeting. He is not afraid to confront employees about the progress of tasks. And at the same time employees are not afraid to ask for help, and are willing to help each other where needed. When the next meeting is due, you should have a good overview of the progress beforehand. And during the meeting, make sure that everyone will be accounted for. Following up on tasks allows for a well-prepared leader, that facilitates the progress of the company.

Effective meetings are dependent on many factors. The above-mentioned ones are only a grasp in the large jar of possible techniques that you can explore to make your meetings more effective. With these, and other, techniques you will have prepared meetings, with a set agenda, a time frame, goal, effective discussion, and great follow-up. Good luck!

References & Further Reading:

1. http://theskooloflife.com/wordpress/why-most-meetings-are-huge-waste-of-time/

2. http://humanresources.about.com/od/meetingmanagement/a/meetings_work_3.htm

3. http://holoom.com/2010/01/04/talking-is-not-the-goal-of-a-meeting/

4. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/09/20/why-business-meetings-are-often-a-waste-of-time-and-productivity/

5. http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips/skills/leading_effective_discussions

6. http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2013/03/11/career-boot-camp-7-steps-to-lead-effective-meetings/

7. http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/03/01/5-simple-steps-to-more-efficient-effective-meetings/

8. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1153.aspx

9. http://www.wikihow.com/Run-an-Effective-Meeting

10. http://www.meetingwizard.org/meetings/effective-meetings.cfm

11. http://thestrategyguysite.com/strategic-business-planning/5-tips-for-running-effective-meetings/

12. http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130701022638-22330283-a-simple-rule-to-eliminate-useless-meetings

13. http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130819190438-36052017-cut-your-meeting-time-by-90