Work meetings have been called a “necessary evil”. While they are certainly beneficial in decision-making and keeping everybody on the same page; they also enjoy a nasty reputation as time-wasters and soul-suckers.
Studies have shown that today’s meetings are becoming more frequent and longer. And not only are we meeting face-to-face from across the conference table; we’ve also found ways to meet via phone calls, group chats, video calls, and other technology-powered means.
There seems to be no escaping work meetings. So how do we make the most of them instead?
Set an agenda and communicate it in advance. Whether you’re the one setting the meeting or you’re simply attending, make sure you know what the purpose is for the meeting and what is expected of you. Give attendees at least a week in advance to prepare. Your invitation should include not only the correct date, time, venue, and other logistical details, but more importantly, the final agenda. Be clear about what attendees need to bring, present, or provide during the meeting.
Choose a conducive venue. Your choice of venue can spell the difference between productivity and disaster. Make sure you don’t end up with the latter by choosing a venue that fits your needs. In choosing, make sure to consider your agenda, location, schedule, accessibility, number of attendees, technological requirements, etc. In addition, put a premium on professional atmosphere. Keep in mind that a good working environment can enhance productivity, encourage creativity and innovation, and inspire connection and collaboration. Choose a place with minimal distractions, proper safeguards for a confidential discussion, and a steady Internet connection.
Fool-proof your tech. For both face-to-face and virtual meetings, inefficient technology can lead to a big waste of time. Check your audio-visual equipment in advance. Ensure that all wires are plugged into the right places and connections are running smoothly. Charge all gadgets. And make sure all attendees are familiar with the use of available technology. This includes sharing and collaboration tools such as Slack, Dropbox, or Google Docs that may be used to track progress post-meeting.
Assign a facilitator. A meeting’s success is very much hinged on how it flows. Having someone make sure that the meeting runs according to your agenda is a must. The facilitator will make sure that all points in the agenda are discussed, input is received from attendees, and conversations are moving and are on point.
Be action-minded. One tendency to avoid is to be long-winded and lose track of what you want to achieve. Instead, for every point in the agenda, be clear about what the action is after the meeting, who is expected to do it, when, and how.
Good communication is key. You’re expected to contribute to the meeting by providing information or asking questions. Be clear and confident in your communication. Be mindful of your audience. You're there to connect and to communicate -- not to impress them with vocabulary. Listen: This is the most important part of any communication. Communication is a two-way street. Always allow time and space for your participants to speak up. Your ability to listen -- to really discern meaning -- will go a long way in more effective communication.
Remember: work impressions matter. Meetings are no parties. But depending on how important the meeting is, creating the best professional image won’t hurt. Dress up if you must—yes, even in virtual meetings. If you’re meeting via conference or video calls, make sure you consider your environment, background, lighting, etc. And let your professional image extend to how you act. Be attentive. Don’t be distracted. Be focused.
Keep track of time. Time wasted can never be recovered. So have a timekeeper on standby to make sure that you’re on schedule. Empower the timekeeper to monitor the pace and nudge everyone to the right direction when you stray.
Document everything. Don’t rely on collective memory to keep track of the important points. Instead, assign one note-taker to write down the minutes of the meeting, and to furnish everyone with a copy of the same document within a day after the meeting.
Choose wisely. When a quick visit to your colleague’s office, or a short phone call, or a simple email would give you the same result, ditch the meeting and go for any of the former options instead. If a meeting is indeed necessary, limit your invitees to those who will add the most value to the discussion. Be mindful of your company’s resources and of your fellow employees’ time and energy.
While work meetings certainly have both upsides and downsides, there is no doubt that they will persist especially in the social media age where our desire to connect and collaborate is only getting stronger. The good news is there are ways, such as those mentioned above, to make sure that we waste the least amount of time, energy, and resources when we work together. So keep calm and meet on!