How to Hold a Productive Meeting

How to Hold a Productive Meeting

We have all attended a meeting, whether it be an Executive Staff meeting or an important business  meeting, where you have sat in the chair for hours and leave the meeting feeling like it was a colossal  waste of your time.


What makes you leave those types of meetings feeling as if you would have been more productive if you had stayed in your office working?


I can point to several features of an unproductive meeting:


First – there is no agenda sent out to people attending the meeting in advance.  Therefore:


  • Meeting attendees wonder what is going to be covered at the meeting, so no one comes to the meeting prepared.


  • People that need to discuss a topic may wonder if there will be time for them to present their ideas or thoughts.


  • The meeting wanders from topic to topic without any real direction and often circles back to an individual topic several times during the meeting.


  • People lose interest in the meeting and start to play with their electronic devices during the meeting.


  • Sensitive subject matters are covered in the meeting, that should be cover in private.


Second – failing to the start the meeting on time.  Therefore:


  • The simple fact of showing up to a meeting on time, that you schedule, shows respect to the meeting attendees that you value their time. When you show up late it tells all the attendees that your time is more important than anyone else’s at the meeting. As the person that scheduled the meeting you need to be at the meeting on or before the time the meeting is scheduled to start.  Start on time and if people arrive late tell them they can catch up after the meeting.  Never start the meeting over to accommodate a later arriver.


Third – there is no start and end time for the meeting.  Therefore:


  • There are no time limits around topics that are discussed at the meeting, so the meeting can go on needlessly and endlessly. It is alright if a topic goes a little longer than planned but if there is no agenda with a time frame around the meeting, topics can be driven into the ground with no real meaningful discussion or action items.


  • One person can dominate a meeting and a topic providing no meaningful information to the rest of the attendees other than the person talking subjectively. People that dominate meetings generally like to hear themselves talk and tend to make irrelevant points, so when an important point is made by this person, people at the meeting have already toned them out.


Fourth – there are no action items to follow up on after the meeting.  Therefore:


  • People might leave the meeting feeling like the meeting was for a free form discussion or a pep rally and that nothing was or will be resolved. Even worse the attendees feel the meeting was waste of time.


  • Without specific action items assigned to individuals no one will take responsibility for follow up. If someone takes the time and effort to follow up on items discussed in a meeting and there is opportunity to provide the follow up information at a future meeting, people quickly learn that there is no need to be responsible anything covered in the meeting.


The key points for any meeting:


  • Have an agenda, with follow up action items from the previous meeting.


  • Start the meeting on time.


  • Set a time schedule for the agenda items and the meeting and stick to it.


  • For staff and management meetings send out a follow up communication with a list of action items to be covered/reviewed in the next meeting.


Meetings can be a very important part of a business’s communication, so make the meeting constructive.

Good luck with the next meeting you will be responsible for organizing.


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