There’s no getting around it, meetings are a necessary evil.
At one point or another we are all going to have to sit down around a table with our colleagues and talk shop. But the meeting for meeting’s sake has got to be one of the biggest drains on a business’ productivity. Far from information sharing, decision making, ideas development or planning, all too often meetings can become drawn out and unproductive. Not only is this frustrating, it can cost your business money.
So, if you look at your schedule on a Monday morning and wonder how on earth you’re ever going to get any actual work done, check out our top tips for making your meetings more productive.
Make sure you know exactly what you need to achieve, and that everyone is briefed well in advance. If one person takes responsibility for the agenda, keeps it on track and stops the tangential rambling you are far more likely to realise the meeting objectives. Set a limit for each section, leaving time for questions. And be strict. Skipping an item on the agenda is fine, adding to it is not.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos developed the ‘two pizza’ strategy for successful meetings. If you can’t feed a meeting on two pizzas you have too many people in the room. Unless you have one particularly greedy person, in which case you might need to order dough balls.
If the reason for the meeting is little more than ‘it’s Monday!’ the meeting itself makes little sense. The problem with most small businesses is that it is these ‘posting’ meetings that become ingrained into a company’s culture, adding little tangible value. Especially against a backdrop of the post-weekend inflated inbox. Get rid of the meeting. And get on with some work.
Stand-up meetings tend to be quicker and more productive. Melissa Dahl of New York Magazine recently found that stand-ups can reduce meeting times by 34%. Standing up tends to eliminate distractions, but can also work to empower each speaker. When standing you naturally command more attention and can be more expressive. Also, you just want to sit down. So it’s over quicker. You lazy bunch.
Richard Branson likes to hold his meetings in “innovative spaces”. Unless your business has its own version of Necker Island this may not always be possible. But you could leave your desk and head to a local park. See also Nilofer Merchant’s TED talk on walking meetings. As Branson says: “a change of scenery and a bit of fun does wonders for getting people thinking differently and loosening up!” And he’s done alright for himself.
In ‘Drinking From the Fire Hose’ Christopher Frank, Vice President of American Express, suggests a twitter-hack for defining business objectives. If every person cannot define their meeting objectives in 140 characters then they simply don’t know why they are there. And that should raise some alarm bells.
It is tough to implement any kind of internal or cultural change in a business. But redefining your meeting rules and protocols can have a real impact on productivity and morale. So, consider the next time you are sat around the boardroom whether you need to be there and what you are really going to achieve out of it. And make sure you order that pizza.
Got to go. Got a meeting.