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Yet, business meetings have a bad rap. They are often seen as a necessary evil by those who attend them. They can tend to either run too long, or not be structured in a manner to properly accomplish what they were initially intended to do. At this point, meetings become pointless and employees feel they are no longer gaining anything from being present.
What’s a company leader to do? Here are a few ways to ensure that your meetings make the most of your employees’ time.
Learn How to Run an Effective Meeting
Meeting Timelines – The first key to running effective meetings is making sure that all elements and attendees are ready on time. If you’re setting up the meeting, make sure to arrive to the site at least 15 minutes early to allow for a proper set up, or even more importantly, moving the meeting site if there is an issue with the chosen one. Additionally, employees should know that they are required to show up on time, which means about five minutes early. In a meeting, nothing can be more distracting (and somewhat disrespectful) than having employees enter in the middle of a presentation.
Have a Meeting Agenda – Meetings to disseminate information are the most common types. They become wasteful when there isn’t a pre-set agenda, or the agenda that is set isn’t followed. Usually through distracters, such as side conversations or allowing copious amounts of the dreaded “what if" questions, meeting agendas can become side tracked and attendees get distracted from the main purpose of being present. Having a meeting agenda and even providing it to employees is useful in a number of ways. It provides employees with a focus for the meeting, as well as allowing them an way to reflect on it later. Nothing is worse than attending a meeting and not knowing the reason why. This lack of clarity tends to put employees in the “this is a waste of time” mood.
Remember the Meeting Focus – Knowing your audience is vital to running effective meetings, and designing a meeting both in content and attendance. Every employee that attends a meeting should have some interest in the information being presented or requested. Often times, meeting organizers will “over-invite” attendees because they feel the information being presented is good information to know. What they tend to lose sight of is that every minute in the meeting is a minute of the workday that their daily work is not being completed. If there is general information that is good to know, avoid inviting non-key employees and instead provide them with either meeting minutes or some other format by which the information is presented.
Choose the Time Wisely – Believe it or not, there is a strategy to setting meeting times that will contribute to running an effective meeting. Monday mornings, for instance, are about the worst time to plan a meeting. If the employees are not dealing with the general chaos that accompanies Mondays, they are still getting back into the mindset of the work week. The same goes for Fridays. Generally, this is a poor day for a meeting because employees might be pondering the weekend and lose focus. Also, try to avoid the lunch hour or an hour before or after lunch. Before lunch, you get employees who are becoming hungry and will be antsy to finish the meeting to eat. And, of course, after lunch employees might be working at a diminished energy level after having already eaten lunch. A final consideration is starting meetings not on the full or half hour. Try starting meetings at 15 or 45 minutes after the hour. This scheduling shift has a tendency to mix up the traditional scheduling a bit, and subconsciously gets employees to not expect meetings to last for blocks of 30 or 60 minutes at a time.
Avoid Meeting Distractions – Many things can become distractions in a meeting. The most common ones are cell phones and Blackberries. But, the environment itself can also serve to be a distraction. Prior to a meeting, ensure that the location provides a quiet environment that is conducive to information intake. Avoid meeting spaces that have extreme temperatures. Also, if food is going to be provided at meetings, it should only be provided for meetings that are planned to last longer than an hour. And, should food become an option, confine it to something simple, such as water, and a non-carb rich food, like nuts. These snacks help you avoid both a focus on eating or an energy crash.
Avoid the Unruly PowerPoint – PowerPoint presentations that are not structured properly can be a detriment to meetings. The most common mistake made with meeting presentations is that the designer attempts to make the slides “stand alone” in terms of information. When this happens, the presenter will then tend to read directly from the slides rather than having information captured that they can refer to while they are presenting, i.e. charts, graphs, bullet facts. It is very important to remember that the slides are there to accompany the speaker, who should always remain the main presenter of information. Beyond the information captured, try to avoid pointless slide transitions, goofy clipart, and odd sounds. Although spicing up a slideshow presentation can be fun, it may serve to degrade the professionalism of the slideshow itself.
Evaluate Content and Concerns – One problem that tends to drag meetings out is when content or questions are being focused to only one or two employees in a group. The general rule of thumb is that, if there are concerns or questions between less than two other employees, those dealings should be addressed after the meeting is over. Meetings should be utilized to address all of the attendees.
Although meetings aren’t everyone’s source of daily excitement, a lot of information and work can be accomplished as long as the meeting is designed to be timely and efficient. The thing to remember about meetings is: get the work done that needs to be done and get out.
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