Yesterday, I had 3 tips on how to immediately make your meetings more productive (with some bonuses)! Today, I have 3 more which may seem kind of intuitive or even old news, but remember: reminders never hurt.
1. Large meeting? Send out a list of participants in advance. I know that could seem like overkill, but think back to how many meetings of more than 5 people where they don’t all know each other. How much time is spent – and by spent I mean lost – on introductions? Or how much time is spent on running roll call every time you have more than two beeps on the conference line? Exactly. At minimum, send out the participant list with each individual’s function and department.
Bonus Tip: Speaking about roll call, remember the last posting and the note to start on time? Roll call is one of those tiny things which can eat up valuable time. Run roll at the 2 minute mark to start, a midpoint (if the call is long enough to have it to catch latecomers) and if you have any additional joiners at the end, at the close. Most of the time, the first two cover you off for the entire call.
2. Don’t have too many meetings in a day. I can already hear some of your thoughts: “It’s not by choice, it just happens!” “I can’t say no, it will delay things.” “It’s my job to have meetings.” Here’s a hard fact, unless you are a project or program manager and even if you are a project or program manager, it is never your job to have meetings. We all have the power to say no, not because you intend to delay work, but to have the time to do your work! In addition, if you are the perpetrator of the knee-jerk statement of “we’ll just schedule a call for this” – STOP! Think for a moment – do you really need to schedule another meeting? We can all be more purposeful about meetings. Can it be done in an e-mail? A phone call? A walk-by someone’s desk? An instant message?
Bonus Tip: Every time I start a new job, by the third week I’ve done a specific thing: I have blocked time for work. It’s recurring time on my calendar, sometimes entire portions of days, and during crunch times, I even block out specific hours to do specific things. And I also tell lots of folks about it so everyone is aware. Someone (or some meeting) will fill your time if you don’t, so once you know the rhythm that drives your particular organization, take the time to block your time.
3. Stop bad meetings in their tracks. All of us have had a time when we’ve been ‘unprepared’ for a meeting. Perhaps we intended to have a particular work item done but when status time came around, it wasn’t done. Or maybe after a major holiday, folks get back to the office and things are lagging a bit. Or, there’s been a fire drill. Or a complete pivot in approach that’s left everyone flatfooted – we’ve all been there. So, what does a good meeting host do? Power through as respectfully as possible. What does a great meeting host do?
Stop the meeting! If most of the people on a call aren’t in a position to answer an issue or provide an update, instead of hemming and hawing painfully through, stop the call, plan a time to regroup, find out if there is anything that people need an assist on and offer to help chase it down, and give the time back so that the actual work can get done.
Bonus Tip: If you really want to get in front of this, sometimes stop bad meetings before they start! While, I’m not a big fan of big brothering or big sistering your colleagues, if you’re in the position to find out in advance if folks will be ready for a call, especially a major one, follow up before. Ask if you can help move mountains. And if it’s simply not possible, adjust the schedule. Sometimes it just can’t be done: the meeting must go on. It may even seem overly cautious, but it’s not – it’s proactive and it helps preserve the cadence of work, which is exactly what we’re supposed to be focused on.
So if you remember only one tip…
Let it actually not be something was mentioned above or yesterday. Remember this:
Make sure your meetings have a purpose.
All of the above suggestions are driven by that underlying truth: make sure your meetings have a purpose. Invite the right people, give people enough time to consider what they will bring to the table, share the agenda, stop meetings that are failing to get the results needed, determine whether or not you even need to have a meeting, and if you must, start them on time and end them on time.
Now go out there and have some great meetings!
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