What makes a productive meeting?

There are so many great quotes about meetings, and here are two that tickle my fancy:

“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted”
“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything”  ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

Yet meetings don’t have to be like that.

Meetings are a great way to share information, gather ideas and perspectives and agree ways forward.

Yet in most organisations they seem to be the place where those quotes ring true. Do you have regular meetings in your business which seem to never get anywhere? Are meetings a place where a lot is talked about, but nothing is really sorted, finalised and dealt with?

Here are some ideas to ensure you have more productive meetings:

1) Clarify the purpose of the meeting. Everyone should have an agreed understanding as to why they are sitting in that room together. This also helps keep everyone focused, and if someone goes off topic everyone else can pull them back very clearly to the reason why they are there.

2) Be clear about the outcome you want from the meeting. What will success look like? What do you want to have been agreed or decided when that meeting is over? Do you need to have an agreed decision by the end, or is it just important for everyone to leave having had the chance to hear about some information?

3) Ensure you have the right people in the room. If you need decisions to be made, then are the decision makers present? If you are after a feeling from across your organisation or sector, do you have a representative enough group present?

4) Have the right amount of time set aside. If it is going to take 40 minutes, book a 40 minute meeting, not an hour “just in case”. Be realistic, and then stick to the time that has been agreed. Show respect for people’s time and always ensure you start and finish on time.

5) Think about the best order for the discussion of items in the meeting. Try to discuss related topics together. If you have a possibly contentious point to discuss, put it towards the beginning of the meeting so that you have enough time and energy to focus on it properly.

6) For recurrent meetings it can be useful to have a standing agenda. Everyone knows what will be discussed in what order, and you can get through the information quickly and easily, as well as ensuring the key areas are always discussed if required.

7) Take time to review the meeting at the end. Did it work well? What could be improved for next time? Ensure everyone present has a chance to feedback their thoughts.

These concepts don’t just work for internal business meetings, they are also important to remember when you are  setting up and holding  meetings with clients or potential collaborators or suppliers.

Don’t waste hours or even minutes in unproductive meetings.
Take the time to get them running smoothly, and then perhaps some more positive quotes around meetings will start to appear.

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