Thirty plus years in business, and I’ve been in a lot of meetings. I’ve run my fair share too. Meetings are a necessary part of business, enabling communication, teamwork, and dissemination and sharing of vital information.
A lot have been disastrous: wasting time, venting sessions, boredom-fests, daydreaming periods, and people doodling pictures of where they’d like to be right now.
Hint: it’s NOT in this meeting.
A friend of mine who’s a free-diver used to practice holding his breath when meetings got horrible. I’m sure you’ve had your share, too. Ugh.
In today’s (broadcast) email-centric communications world, face to face meetings are downplayed in favor of electronic communication. It’s easier. It’s quicker. It’s its own record-keeper. Makes sense, right?
People have been gathering, getting together, sharing ideas and common goals for thousands of years. Tribes. Churches. Armies. Neighborhoods. Schools. There’s one fundamental reason.
People work with people.
Face-to-face is THE most effective way of communicating with others. There are so many non-verbal cues like tone and pitch of voice, eye movements, body language, breathing styles, and others that simply cannot be transmitted through the wires.
Regularly-scheduled meetings also become rituals – part of the core of the operations of the business. That can be good or bad!
I used to have a weekly Monday morning sales meeting at my company at 8:30. It got people there, laid out the agenda and pertinent information for the week, and kicked the week off with some direction. Management meetings were at lunchtime on Mondays, and we had food delivered. Same reasons.
And on Friday afternoons at 4:30 pm, because manager often spend a lot of their week solving problems, we had a weekly mandatory management “Good News” call, that had us all headed home for the weekend filled with good things that had happened that week. Each manager had to bring two items of good news, and no negative information was discussed.
So what turns meetings into disastrous wastes of time? What’s the #1 meeting killer?
Lack of leadership. Period.
Here are some leadership tips I use for meetings:
- Plan your agenda in advance. As the leader, you have to be one step ahead, and you have to set a clear agenda. I planned all my Monday meetings on Sunday nights as I began to think about the upcoming week and looked over my schedule.
- Your agenda should include only items that need to be heard or discussed by ALL invited attendees. No individual stuff or smaller groups! Handle that separately.
- Be EARLY. Show up early, print enough copies of your agenda, gather your materials together, and be into the room, ready to go, at least 10 minutes beforehand.
- Start on time! Set the expectation that starting on time will be a routine, and that you won’t wait for people to show up. They’ll be late once, stick out like a sore thumb when they walk in, and then probably not again after that. Start on time.
- Say “Good Morning”, “Good Day”, “Good Afternoon”, or have some other way of getting people engaged. Look people in the eye, make sure you’ve got their attention, and connect.
- Laptops and mobile phones. This is a tough one. But try this rule: don’t bring it if you don’t have something to show EVERYONE. Otherwise, you’ve got people checking emails, reading reports, texting – and you DON’T have their attention or contribution.
- Stay on topic. It’s your job to keep the conversation on topic and to recognize quickly when it’s not. If it strays, guide it back quickly and politely.
- Manage the time. When it becomes clear that a topic is going to take too much time, cut it off, and schedule another meeting for just that topic with just those involved.
- When people start to joke, tell stories, or talk too long, reel them in politely and remind them that you need to stay on task. If it doesn’t involve everyone in the room, ask them to schedule another get-together to discuss it afterwards.
- Keep notes, or better yet, have an assistant or someone else do it.
- End on time, or better yet, end early!
These are key ingredients of effective meetings I have use and recommend. Stick with these guidelines and avoid boring, wasteful meetings.
What do you think? Good advice? Pass it along! What else would you add?
Make it a great day!