From boardrooms to bedrooms with Skype or digital conference abilities, millions of meetings occur every day in the world of business. Exactly how much time is used efficiently? How much time is actually wasted? The preparation and process of how we conduct meetings will determine whether they are effective or whether we lose millions of dollars annually in wasted minutes.
One of my mentors loves to say, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” This is absolutely true. Preparation involves reviewing all material for the meeting, which may include papers submitted by other team members, so that appropriate questions may be asked. A major time waster is someone who asks a question because he may not have prepared properly. If you’re in charge of the meeting, set an agenda. This helps guide the flow of the meeting so it doesn’t run off track.
Stick to the agenda.
Be the leader that sticks to the meeting and not the one who constantly answers a cell phone or multi-tasks when one of her team is presenting. If there’s someone who constantly interrupts or is too long-winded, be tactful enough to coerce that person to discuss the matter further at another time. Ensure however, that you do not stunt another person’s potential growth by being too abrasive in how you may cut them short.
Encourage the team.
In order for meetings to be fruitful, all attendees must feel comfortable enough to air their concerns, make their presentations or offer suggestions. If the person conducting the meeting is too intimidating or does not allow for equal opportunity, the meeting will be less than efficient. I would never forget a management retreat I observed where a key member of the team aired his displeasure at how another team member was treating him. The CEO dismissed his complaints and during the entire meeting the manager sat there, seething, saying nothing. Had the CEO communicated with this manager before the meeting, he (the manager) would have been able to offer suggestions and actively participate in the retreat.
A meeting can start and end perfectly, but if there is no accountability and timeline set, the meeting could have all been in vain. This is where a good minute-taker is essential. For every project reported on in the meeting, there should be a subsequent follow-up date. Clear articulation of what is to be done should occur during the meeting so that all are ad idem. There should also be consequences discussed, just in case the projects aren’t executed on time.
Frankly, I’m a firm believer in meetings that last no more than 30-60 minutes. Anything more than that is – most times – unnecessary!
(Veoma Ali is an advertising executive with a Ph.D in Communication and Master’s in Business Administration.