We've all been there.
We have all been in terrible meetings or run terrible meetings. I know I have. I catch myself even now doing a poor job at planning and managing a discussion well.
It's so simple to do it well. Why don't we do it more often? Why do I forget the basics sometimes?
Here's a reminder for me, myself, I, and you too.
What's the Goal?
Have a clear goal going into the discussion. Is it a decision or set of decisions you want to come out with? Is it to communicate status?
Make sure the goal is clear to everyone, and that the goal is stated in such a way that you know when you've acheived it.
This is why an agenda is so important, even if it's just a few lines of text in the calendar item or in an email. It doesn't have to be formal, but it does have to clearly communicate the goal(s) clearly.
Respect People's Time
Schedule meetings to be 15 or 30 minutes by default. Most scheduling software automatically defaults to an hour. Change the defaults.
Limiting yourself to shorter meetings will keep them more focused and productive. I would rather have 2 30-minute meetings than a single 1-hour meetings if it makes sense. Sometimes that can be a good strategy, especially when it's a decision-making discussion. Expect actions and follow-up activity to come out of the first discussion, and get finalized in the second.
Shorter meetings also makes it easier for you to keep the group on track. If someone gets off topic, you can steer them back by interjecting "we only have a few minutes left for this discussion, so let's table that topic for now and deal with it individually or in a new meeting."
If you are scheduled for 30 minutes and you acheive the goal in 10 minutes, declare victory and get the heck out of there. Get everyone back to moving your project forward.
Additionally, start the meeting on time. Waiting around for 5 minutes for other people to arrive is pretty painful for everyone. In some cases you have to wait...if so, try to get some cheerful banter going at least...otherwise it's just boring silence.
If there are actions from the meeting, follow up on them. Make sure other people are as well.
Sending out meeting minutes is a great way to 1) ensure people know their responsibilities, 2) you remember who you are expecting updates from, and 3) help ensure understanding by re-stating the decisions in your own summary.
What ineffective behaviors do you catch yourself or others doing that give you a headache?
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