By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
I think one of the reasons I retired early from my corporate job is that I got tired of going to meetings.
We had meetings about company strategy, how to implement strategy and what to do when the strategy didn’t work. We spent hours discussing who to hire, who to fire and how to divvy up the bonus pool.
The worst part was that while we were in meetings, the emails kept coming in and the substantive work we were all responsible for kept piling up on our desks.
Accountemps recently conducted telephone interviews with over 1,000 senior managers to identify their pet peeves. It turns out I’m not the only one who is allergic to protracted, pointless meetings.
Nearly one-third (31 per cent) said beginning or ending meetings late tops their list of complaints. Calling a meeting for no good reason was the second most common beef (27 per cent). Other frequently cited sources of irritation were people who sit through meetings clicking away on their laptops or other PDAs and participants who constantly interrupt each other.
So in the interests of saving time and energy for you and your staff, I offer the following six suggestions for making your meetings more productive:
1. Attendees: Invite people who need to be there. Try to avoid asking people as a courtesy or because it is politically correct to do so. However, exceptions must often be made, particularly where the meeting may be a good learning experience for junior associates.
2. Timing: Establish a time when the meeting begins and a time when it ends. When the time is up, so is the meeting. If people are late, wait five minutes and start without them. If latecomers are essential, consider rescheduling.
3. PDAs: Unless an attendee has been asked to take notes, collect all laptops, BlackBerries, iPhones, Androids and other PDAs in a basket at the door. Devices can be retrieved on the way out.
4. Technology: If you are using laptop, projector etc. make sure the equipment is in working order and you know how to work it before people arrive. Telephone and video conferencing equipment can be particularly prone to problems that can delay the beginning of your meeting.
5. Materials: If at all possible, make sure everyone has a copy of the relevant materials at least a day before the meeting and make it clear they are expected to have reviewed them in advance. This is particularly important if people are conferencing in by telephone or video conference.
6. Agenda: Have a reasonable agenda and stick to it. Rival factions should be able to state their position, but it may make sense for more protracted discussions to be taken “offline.” Don’t be afraid to make an executive decision or take issues under advisement to move the meeting along.
7. Action plan: Outline an action plan at the end of the meeting and allocate responsibility for action items to specific people. Follow up with an email with the action plan attached or a link to the document on your company Intranet.
If the meeting is going to run through a meal period, offering sandwiches or other snacks to help participants to focus on the business at hand, rather than the rumbling in their tummies. Also, for company training sessions or town hall meetings, free food usually guarantees a good turnout.