Meetings may look a little different than they did pre-pandemic, but they still require the same planning in order to be effective. Here’s a list of items to consider ahead of time to make your meetings work.
By Phil Stella
This is a topic we’ve touched on in the past, but the timing seems right to re-examine how to make meetings work for you and others. Meetings look a little different in the world today now that remote work and online meetings are the norm.
Despite common flexible working arrangements, many workers are actually experiencing an uptick in meetings. Additionally, pre-COVID a phone call would have been sufficient for many discussions that are now happening over Zoom – inevitably extending the conversation and taking up more of your workday.
Ask any group of COSE members what they think about work meetings. You’ll probably hear comments indicating they are too frequent, too long, don’t have a purpose, start late and are a waste of time. Probably many of us would even say that they hate meetings.
Let’s face it, with a plateful of responsibilities, a meeting is just another item on the to-do list. It’s safe to say that nobody gets excited about meetings.
This is especially the case with poorly planned meetings, which can translate into inefficient and ineffective results and missed opportunities. Too many people still haven’t learned how to properly plan, manage or follow up on meetings; they simply “have” meetings.
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As leaders, meetings are part of your work life. And just as work without meetings would be unthinkable – perhaps wonderful, but unthinkable – work loaded with terrible meetings is unbearable.
A meeting is nothing more than a communication tool. Not a perfect tool at all, but one with specific advantages and disadvantages for potentially solving communication problems or needs. A meeting can also be an opportunity for you to display leadership and management skills. But, it can be an opportunity to fail, too. The difference depends on how skilled a workplace communicator you are and how well you make meetings work for you.
The pre-meeting phase: Planning is everything
We all know that failing to plan is planning to fail with our businesses. Same goes for meetings. So, ask yourself these questions when you plan your next meeting:
Objective – What problem are you trying to solve? What’s your specific objective? What outcomes do you want to accomplish as a result of the meeting?
Participants – Who needs to attend? Who is necessary to contribute, decide and implement as needed? If people are not helping to achieve the outcomes, why are they there?
Agenda – Does your agenda include attendees, location, start and end times, topics to be discussed, time allotted for each one and specific assignments? If not, fix it. If you don’t have a good agenda, don’t meet.
Alternatives – Is there a more effective and efficient way to accomplish your objective than having a meeting? Would a note, conference call, video conference or series of one-on-one conversations be smarter than a meeting for this particular situation? A meeting should be the best tool you can think of using, not the first one you think of or the one you usually think of. Remember, the only thing worse than a bad meeting is a meeting that should have been an email. Ask yourself, will your colleagues be annoyed if they make extra effort to attend in person when a Zoom meeting would make more sense?
Location – Where’s the most convenient, practical and productive location for your meeting? The wrong location can impact meeting dynamics and results.
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Timing – What day and time are the least disruptive and most productive for your meeting? Your objectives, attendees and group dynamics will influence timing. When in doubt, ask the attendees for input.
Frequency – If you need to meet regularly, how often makes sense? If you changed your weekly staff meeting to every other week with email updates in between, you cut the organization’s yearly “cost” for that meeting in half and increase the real productivity of attendees.
With a tight labor market, it’s more important than ever to consider employee satisfaction and company culture. The quality of the meetings you conduct reflects your ability as a workplace communicator and leader and can directly impact the employee experience at your small business. So, start improving your meetings tomorrow with more and better planning. You absolutely can make meetings work for you.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440-804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.