Woman in meeting.“Executives waste 7.8 hours each week in meetings.” Office Pro Nov/Dec 2000.

From my years of being a professor, I know this statistic to be an understatement–and you may, too. This article offers ideas for making your “meeting” life more productive. The ideas are specifically for keeping meetings on track (vs. meandering around through various topics, times, etc.) when YOU are in charge of the meeting.

  1. Do not provide food for participants. If the meeting is only 1 - 2 hours, there certainly does not need to be a ‘spread’ because of the potential for distraction and off-task discussion and focus.
  2. To keep brief meetings brief, stand up for the meeting. The minute people sit down, you’ve added at least double the time. For meetings that really should only last for 5 – 15 minutes, just stand and get the business taken care of.
  3. For longer meetings, make sure that the meeting room is set up and ready for the meeting before people arrive. It means that you may have to arrive a few moments early to ensure that everything is arranged productively, and it’s time well spent in terms of the overall productivity of the meeting.
  4. Send out the agenda in advance and ask (and expect) that participants bring the agenda you have sent out. This will be a culture shift at many campuses (i.e., first, that there’s an agenda sent in advance and second, that there is not another
    one handed out at the meeting).
  5. Start and end the meeting at the times you have advertised (i.e., promised) on the agenda. This alone will set you apart from others. You’ll be seen as a person of your word and someone who knows how to be productive and help others  be productive, too.
  6. The advance agenda needs to include start and stop times for each item, the name of the person(s) responsible for each item, and enough information about the item that it directs  participants’ thinking prior to the meeting. A productive  leader creates agendas that actually provide direction. An agenda that says, 1. budget, 2. parking, 3. comps, etc. just doesn’t do that.
  7. Post the agenda on chart paper, a white board, via PowerPoint, or a transparency so that everyone can keep the agenda in view at all times and you can easily refer to it. This  should be done in addition to the paper or electronic one that people already have. There’s something about having something visual for everyone to be redirected to, as needed.
  8. Put the most important items first on the agenda. If you don’t get to a particular topic or item on the agenda, you want it to be the least important, not the most important. Putting key items first also underscores your commitment to start on time and not fritter away the first 10 or 15 minutes on minutia.
  9. Create a way (e.g., a “parking lot”) to capture ideas that are tangential to the agenda (i.e., that would take the group down a different path) but that you don’t want to lose. This displays that you don’t want to dismiss the ideas or thoughts that are being shared, but that you believe it would side track the group from its focus at this time.
  10. When a participant tries to derail the meeting or extend the time originally allotted for an item, redirect everyone’s attention to the agenda that is posted on the wall (board, projector) or that is right in front of them. You can certainly do this in a professional and firm manner that ensures that the main objectives of the meeting are addressed within the allotted time frame.

Remember, you are in charge of the meeting, and that means designing it to be productive–and then being proactive to keep it that way.

gap_guide_way_better_meetings_perspective_new-858x1024If you attend &/or plan meetings (and I know you do), then you need the Get a Plan! Guide® to Waayy Better Meetings. As a society, we cannot afford to be losing productivity to meetings that are poorly designed, unnecessary, or to whom the wrong people have been invited.