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Think Twice Before Calling That Meeting

If being asked to show up at a meeting fills you with dread, you’re not alone.  Forty-nine percent of workers surveyed said that unproductive meetings were a huge productivity drainer for them.  Seventy percent of executives reported that most of the meetings they attend are “a waste of time.”  When asked the cause of their frustration, it’s probably the same as yours: boring, stressful, lack of a clear agenda, and no follow-through on the topics or plans that were discussed. 

Call me crazy, but I actually like a good meeting! A good meeting is when participants feel they have learned or accomplished something worthwhile. In addition, a good meeting can be a really great way to foster teamwork, inspiration, and even, dare I say, enjoyment.  However, it does take some know-how, practice and a bit of “finesse” to make this happen.

I recently led a workshop with a large executive team to talk about this very problem. Besides a certain sense of irony – a meeting about how to have better meetings - it proved to be very insightful for the participants and highly effective for improving future productivity. By creating a “meeting policy” and getting everyone on the same page for understanding the expectations, roles and rules for their meetings, we were able to reenergize the team and address an issue that had been a major source of unspoken frustration for many of them.   

Effective meetings don’t just happen; certain skills and practice are needed for them to be both efficient and effective. Here are a few of the tips I shared with the client on how to make their company’s meetings more productive:

Establish and enforce some ground rules both for calling a meeting and for attending a meeting.  (That’s right, the attendee also has a key role and responsibility for improving a meeting's outcome.)

Qualify your meeting.  Is a face-to-face, sit-down meeting best or necessary? Can the desired results be achieved with a memo, email, phone call or conference call?  Can you communicate a clear reason for having or attending the meeting so others will want to show-up?

Plan for efficiency.  Set up the meeting with the mindset that you're going to get something done. That means having a written agenda (if it's in your head, you haven't thought it through enough), confirming that all key people can attend, and sending them any materials or memos they'll need to be familiar with ahead of time.

Learn to be quick and decisive. Set definite start and stop times, and stick to it. Remember that you are asking people to take time out of their day that was already probably too full of things to do, so get to the point and wrap up on time. As you do draw the meeting to a close, get a consensus for any "next step" actions or assignments. For the meeting to be successful, everyone has to agree on and understand what's necessary to move forward.

Follow-up is part of the process. Within 24 hours, e-mail attendees a recap of the notes, their respective responsibilities for action, and the timetables you agreed upon. This kind of follow-up and accountability is a great way to turn what would've been a waste of time into a commitment towards getting a project finished.

Learn to be a good attendee.  As I mentioned, not everything falls to the meeting planner – part of the responsibility for good meetings lies in the attendees. If you are coming to a meeting, RSVP ahead of time, review the agenda, and show up prepared and at least five minutes early. Then once things begin, pay attention; using your Blackberry, crunching on ice or candy, or even whispering isn't just rude and irritating; these distractions can hamper the whole process.

Taking the time to plan for a successful meeting will probably take a little more effort on the front-end, but it can certainly save lots of time (and frustration) in the end.   Isn’t that what real productivity is all about?  Knowing how to do the right things, in the best way and at the right time?

-- Kimberly Medlock 

Kimberly Medlock is a common sense productivity expert, helping organizations across North America get better results quicker and easier, with less time, energy and hassle.  If you would like to know more about increasing your productivity, contact her at 662-893-7933 or
Posted: 10/2/2012 11:04:27 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: blog, business, chamber, coworkers, meetings, memphis, office, organization, planning, productivity, small, waiting, work

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