How to Hold a Productive Meeting

If you attend a lot of meetings throughout the year you are not alone. You are most certainly not alone!

In the United States alone businesses hold 11 million formal meetings a DAY. That’s over 3 billion, yes billon, meetings a year. Many, maybe most, of those meetings produce no tangible result, with the possible exception of more meetings.

I’m not saying that all meetings are bad, managed well, great things can and do come out of meetings. It’s just that so few meetings are well managed. Holding a meeting should be a serious decision. I wonder how many times a hallway conversation has led to “let’s get the team together and talk about this” with no additional planning or thought as to the cost of the meeting. Way too many companies hold meetings because that is just what companies have always done. Poorly managed meetings cost businesses billions of dollars a year. Yes COST! Meetings are not free; there are real costs associated with every meeting.

If everyone involved in a meeting is “local” the expenses can be limited to “opportunity” losses and a simple loss of productively. If it’s a big meeting with people traveling to a central location the expense can be enormous.

Either way, big or small, productive meetings don’t just happen; they need to be planned. If a meeting isn’t worth planning then the meeting isn’t worth holding.

If you are the person calling a meeting then it is your responsibility to make certain there is an agenda for the meeting. BEFORE you begin developing the agenda you MUST determine the objective for the meeting. If you can’t think of an objective for the meeting then don’t think about having the meeting either.

As the “caller” of the meeting you are not required to personally develop the agenda; you are required to ensure that an agenda is developed and disseminated. If there is no time to develop at least a limited agenda then there is certainly no time for a meeting either. If the meeting requires any preparation and thinking on the part of the attendees then the agenda should be provided at least 24 hours in advance. The more preparation and thinking that are required the earlier the agenda should be provided. By the way, if no preparation and thinking are required on the part of the attendees then no meeting is required either.

The agenda must include start and end times. Every meeting should start and end on time and if it will take 25 minutes for the objective to be achieved then don’t schedule a 30 minute meeting just because it’s easier in Outlook. Staying on time, staying on topic and focusing on the objective of the meeting demonstrates to all attendees that meetings matter and so does their time. Your meetings may not be as “fun” but they will be a heck of a lot more productive.

Carefully consider who will be invited to the meeting. If a person won’t or can’t help with the objective of the meeting then that person doesn’t need to be at the meeting. They can be more productive doing almost anything else.

The meeting must end with a clear, specific statement as to the next steps. If the only “next step” is another meeting then the meeting you just finished either wasn’t long enough or more likely, didn’t need to be held at all.

Holding meetings is easy, holding productive meetings isn’t. Productive meetings require preparation and disciple but that preparation can make a huge difference in the productivity of your entire organization.

Here’s another thought on meetings… ban them! Not altogether, maybe just one day a month, no meetings, none, nada, zip, zero meetings one day a month. No meetings anywhere in your organization, every conference room completely empty! Call it your “Super Productivity Day,” the day when every member of your organization only works on the absolutely most productive thing possible. Maybe it’s something unpleasant they have been putting off, maybe it’s something that really means a lot to them. Great things will happen on that day and it will send a message that you know meetings matter and you know that having less meetings matters too.

Good meetings won’t guarantee success, but enough bad meetings will almost certainly guarantee something less than success.

Get your team together and talk about it! Oh, geez, here we go again…..

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