I remember my first useless meeting. I had to bring pasta salad, which I made because word around the office was that food was one of the best ways to get people to come to the office meetings and keep them there. I’ll never forget one gentleman who worked there. He came early to the meeting and started eating my pasta salad. Right in front of me, he began to comment on my salad being too “tangy.” Then I began to feel bad because I thought I had brought something that no one would like.
It dragged on, but I endured the meeting just like everyone else. There was no new information, lots of complaining and pointless chatter. Ironically, most people had eaten my pasta salad, and only a little bit was left which made me feel a little bit better. Especially after hearing my co-worker’s comment. But then I thought to myself, “I brought my pasta salad for this?”
I’m sure there are worse horror meeting stories than my pasta salad episode. People in IT have endless meetings every day; mine was just once a week. We all want to change the way meetings are held, but sometimes you feel powerless, especially when meetings are controlled by your superiors whom you don’t feel comfortable confronting.
In these types of situations, it may be a good idea to ask questions and offer help. Poorly planned meetings are a waste of employee hours and that results in wasted money for the company. Hence, it’s important for the sake of productivity to keep meetings concise and well planned.
Before scheduling any meeting, you have to know if you should even have a meeting in the first place. Remember, meetings can be for brainstorming, providing information, determining tasks for your group, in-depth discussions, conservations that have lots of questions and so forth. If you just need to convey a simple message or ask a question, then it may be best just to send an email to everyone.
If a meeting is required, there are a few items that will help you create an effective meeting – an agenda, the right people, length of time, brainstorming and a summary or action plan.
Prepare an agenda – We’ve all heard about preparing an agenda. But what does a good agenda look like? One example is to frame it in an outline form. Start with any business from a past meeting, then add items from the current meeting and finally end with action items to occur. An agenda needs to have topics of discussion that are selected based on their priority. Each topic should be concise. Maybe someone needs to work on a task, or someone needs to fix something. It’s imperative that steps are being taken to complete work related to a topic so that there’s progress. Also, sharing your agenda in advance with individuals who will attend the meeting is a good way for others to prepare for or complete work prior to the meeting as well as give them the opportunity to add necessary topics to an agenda.
Ask the right people – Not everyone needs to be in every meeting. If there’s a problem, sometimes all you need to do is talk with the team responsible for the project. However, if it’s complex, involved several departments or important decisions need to be made, then you need to call a meeting. Be aware of who really needs to attend.
Keep it short and sweet – Everyone has a full workload and meetings take away valuable time from important work that needs to get done. That said, meetings need to be kept in control and within the set time limit. The facilitator of the meeting needs to know how much time to spend on a certain topic. If people in the meeting are bringing up new topics, they need to be told that their topics will be addressed later when the time is right. Also, additional questions can also be tackled via email if there is no time during the meeting. We have to respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, but also must keep the meeting on track.
Encourage brainstorming…with a caveat – When coming up with ideas, everyone needs to respect all ideas presented in the meeting. There is no good or bad idea. There are simply ideas that can be built on or tweaked or set aside. Having this mindset is important because we want everyone to feel comfortable contributing to the brainstorming process. Criticism hinders sharing, and lack of sharing means missing out on potentially great ideas.
Include a meeting summary or action plan – A quick meeting summary should be sent to participants of the meeting via email. The summary lets individuals know what each person’s next steps are or what they need to complete. Documenting the action plan makes everything clear and allows others to stay on track.
Effective meetings are planned and facilitated well; they don’t just happen. Taking small, well thought out steps ahead of time will cut down on the amount of time spent during the meeting. As a result, employees can get back to doing the things they are supposed to do.
Oh, and bribing people with food still works, but please learn from my mistake and bring something sweet. The classic box of donuts never goes wrong. People respond way better to sugar than tangy pasta salad!
Do you have a meeting horror story to share? We’d love to hear about it.
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