Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

efficient meetings

How many times have you sat through an interminable meeting, wondering why on earth you are there? I have often found myself resorting to counting ceiling tiles with boredom, or planning the week’s grocery shopping in my head. The last meeting I went to was so pointless that I had a great opportunity to think about who I was going to invite to my birthday party. Not all meetings are like this, of course, but the majority are. The annoying thing is, it only takes a few simple time management tips to create efficient meetings– but it seems that most people running meetings don’t know about these. Meetings are an essential part of human existence. When you sit for hours with your accountant going through your tax return you might dispute this! But we humans are social animals. Meetings are not just about business. We might meet with friends to plan a party, or with family to plan an event like a wedding or holiday.

The key word here is plan. Every meeting needs a plan.

Things come in threes: and there are three parts you need to think about when planning a meeting: the preparation, the meeting itself and a recap at the end.

Preparing for your meeting

Whatever the size or scale of your meeting, it will need planning. The three P’s of meeting planning should help:

Purpose: What is your meeting’s aim? You need to have a goal. Don’t just hold a meeting because you always do. If the purpose of your meeting is just to update people, why not send an email instead.

People: Once you know what your meeting is for, you can make sure the right people are attending. Remember – top of anyone’s list of time management tips is the reminder that people’s time costs money. Think for a moment how much an hour of someone’s time costs your company. Will your meeting achieve enough to justify that cost? Are you engaging people at the right level? Managers are busy people who may want to send a deputy to your meeting, but if it is management-level authority that you need, then this might be a waste of time. Use time management tips to help in reducing meeting time.

Papers: All good meetings need to communicate in advance. You should send out a formal agenda – or at least an email with some idea of the meeting’s content and purpose – so that participants come ready to engage with the topic. Good time management tips include sending the papers out in good time (up to 48 hours in advance) and keeping them brief. This gives everyone a chance to read and absorb the topics.

Running the meeting

A good meeting has a limited agenda. This is where your pre-planning comes into play. An hour-long meeting should only have two or three topics for discussion. If you include more, and you risk over-running your time, and over-loading your participants with information.

If you worry about meeting time management, tips to follow include making sure that everyone knows what the agenda is, and then sticking to it during the meeting. If new topics arise, make a note of these for the next meeting.

Someone should take notes of your meeting. A formal meeting may need ‘minuting’ in detail. Even for an informal meeting, it is a good idea to make a note of any actions – who has agreed to do what. If there are more than two or three participants, it is generally not a good idea for the person running the meeting to take the notes at the same time.

Action replay

At the end of every meeting, there needs to be a recap of what has just happened. This helps to focus the participants on what has happened. The person running the meeting should summarise the proceedings of the meeting (very briefly!). It is also a good idea to run through any actions which people have agreed to undertake. After the meeting, send out a quick email with a summary of actions, and formal minutes if required.

This might all seem like a lot of work – but it pays off in the long run. If you everyone is in agreement about the purpose and outcomes of a meeting, it will be more effective, and hopefully shorter. You might even decide that you don’t need a meeting at all. Then you would have more time to plan that birthday party in peace.

While I was planning my party, I came across a new problem – there were many duplicate contacts in my phone’s address book and in my outlook contact list. Fortunately there is software that can help with removing these duplicate contacts – leaving me with more time for party planning, and other fun activities.

Armed with techniques for efficient meetings, Stop Wasting Time!

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