Meetings: From Ineffective to Efficient

Ah meetings. Aside from emails, they are probably the bane of any 9-to-5’ers existence. At the beginning of a new job, meetings are a great way to get to know your colleagues and take copious pages of notes to help you learn the ropes, not to mention they fill that empty time when you don’t quite have your own projects yet. Fast forward a few months, though, and you have a full to-do list, an exploding email inbox and not enough time in the day to effectively handle it all. Then, the ever-dreaded meeting request pops into your inbox and you’re one step away from losing it.

Why do we react that way to meetings, groaning to our colleagues as we plop down at the conference table for the fourth time that day?

Because meetings, when not managed properly, are a colossal waste of time and energy. Organizations need collaboration and face-time, but leaders need to work harder at maximizing this time together so everyone walks away feeling accomplished.

For starters, here’s how:

  1. Stop having meetings for the sake of having meetings. I know we get a lot of emails too, but if you simply need everyone’s okay on a decision you’ve already discussed, send an email and be done with it.
  2. Set a time and agenda and stick to them. Unless it’s a strategic brainstorming session, meetings should not last more than an hour and should have defined structure. We tend to repeat ourselves or digress after sixty minutes when we could be back at our desks working on our action items.
  3. Change up your meeting location once in a while. Your office, the conference room, Starbucks and the cafeteria all create different vibes that will keep the group feeling fresh and energized. Caffeinated beverages don’t hurt either.
  4. Close those laptops. I know many people take notes on their computer but it may not always be the most effective. Other meeting attendees can get distracted by the clickety-clack of the keys and the question of whether or not that person is actually listening to you as their face is buried in their laptop. For the note-taker, it can be hard to ignore emails popping up on the screen, especially if you’re not actively engaged in the meeting.
  5. Honor your attendees. As an introvert, I often shut down during meetings filled with extroverts who are thinking aloud and spouting out ideas left and right. I spend those meetings jotting notes and thinking to myself, but my ideas often go unheard because by the time the extroverts are done, the meeting is over. As leaders, we need to honor the different personalities in the room – ask the introverts for their opinions when you notice them thinking quietly, ask the room to silently think for a couple minutes before tossing out ideas.

Bonus: Have you heard about the walking meeting? I have yet to try this but love the concept. We all have heard that sitting is the new smoking but it’s truly hard to avoid. I am a big note-taker so I wonder about the logistics of jotting down ideas for further consideration or remembering action items.

Edited to Add: I found this great article about choosing the perfect meeting venue. Let’s all get out of the office for a meeting this week!

Have you had a walking meeting and what was it like?

What is your favorite, most productive meeting experience? What about the worst or most inefficient meeting you’ve ever attended?