Are You Making Every Meeting Count?

The Meeting

Something occurred to me recently. Why are most meetings set up for 1 hour? And why are there so many meetings every day of our working lives?
The 1 hour meeting seems to be the standard easy option. I have to stop and think what sort of planning has gone into a meeting where an invitation has been sent out and resembles something like this:

1. Duration 1 Hour
2. Brief Cryptic or Woolly Title
3. No Agenda
4. No Description
5. Double Booked Over another meeting
6. 20+ Invitees

The Response
My normal tactic when I receive an invitation to this type of meeting is to make the organizer work for my time. Depending on how far the meeting organizer is up the food chain my response will vary. We all after all serving some lord and master.
If the person has a track record of not making best use of my time, typically I’ll respond with a number of questions such as:

1.What is the objective of the meeting?
2. What are the various roles? Chair, scribe, timekeeper etc?
3. What will be covered on the agenda?
4. Do I need to prepare anything in advance of the meeting?
5. Why am I required to attend? What exactly do you need from me?
6. How much time will you need from me during the meeting?
7. Is there anything that I can provide in advance of the meeting that would remove the need for me to attend?

The response that you receive will depend on the individual. They may respond honestly or they may take offence. Either way they will think before inviting you to any further meetings.

The Life of a Meeting
The meeting doesn’t begin and end with the meeting event itself. The preparation and follow up are equally important.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of professional meeting etiquette. Many organizations have prepared guidelines and procedures for meeting that are outstanding and really practical. For me meetings have always been about preparation and follow up.
If you and the invitees are well prepared, have a clear agenda and a set of objectives, then the meeting should run well. The follow up needs to be equally prompt and efficient for the entire meeting to be a success.

Timings and durations of meetings can also be critical. In a busy organization back to back one hour meetings are a common phenomenon. The issue here is that if all the meetings start and finish on time, then there is no time interval allowed for movement between meeting rooms. The result is that
many people are frequently late for meetings.

This issue is particularly relevant if you are based in a large manufacturing facility with long walks between different areas of the plant. I have often observed a culture of acceptable late arrivals and early leavers at meetings – this is both disruptive and unproductive.

Try something different – spend some time to think about the meeting in detail.

1. What are you trying to achieve – Objectives
2. What needs to be discussed or covered or resolved?
3. Who is needed to attend?
4. Who can we do without?
5. What material needs to be prepared in advance?
6. What time is needed to cover everything?
7. What day and time suit all participants?
8. Can some of them connect remotely to the meetings?

For people in Manufacturing, Mondays and most mornings are a challenge due to the daily operations updates that occur. Calendars are often littered with meetings and updates that no longer happen. Time is a precious commodity.

Instead of the usual start on the hour, finish on the hour arrangement – why not start at 10 mins past the hour and take whatever time is needed. I have found that I can conduct most meetings in 45 minutes if they are run correctly. A good time keeper is a great ally at a meeting.
If you are making the effort to invite someone to a meeting, make it worthwhile. You will not get any thanks for inviting someone to a 2 hour meeting when they are only needed for 10 minutes.

Making the Meeting Count
Make every meeting count. What are the actions and what are the deadlines? Issue the minutes and actions promptly otherwise accuracy and relevance can fade. Before an important meeting I always make time to prepare – block out the time if possible – it will be worth it.
Equally after a meeting, block out time in your calendar to produce the follow up minutes and actions.

Rather than hand writing notes, then transcribing them afterwards – type the notes or assign a scribe to support the note taking. This will save time.
So if you’re organizing a meeting – you should really book three appointments in your calendar. One for preparation, one for delivery and one for follow up.

In Summary
By adopting these principles you and your organization will benefit from each meeting while both your colleagues and customers will appreciate your effective preparation and follow up. We spend so much of our time at meetings it is vital that we get value from each encounter.

I’m not finished with this topic. To be continued…………………………………..
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