By Jon Petz
What’s the number one cause of inefficiency and lack of productivity in America?
One word: meetings.
What should be truly meaningful, useful time dedicated to the creation of tangible value is instead reduced to mind numbing, poorly facilitated, ineffective meetings that rob you, your workplace, and your organization of joy, productivity, and results.
What can you do about it?
Take action NOW. Deliver a life-changing experience instead of merely meeting an expectation.
Here are just a few ways to create more effective meetings and greater office productivity:
1. Stop and think before you send the meeting invite. Reduce or even eliminate the number of regularly scheduled meetings. Obtain consensus or results without filling the conference room. Use alternate ways to achieve your outcome before committing a dozen people to an hour-long conference. A meeting invite shouldn’t be your instant response to every challenge or issue.
2. Reduce the number of attendees. Stamp out “Over-Invitation Syndrome.” Are you inviting the whole gang to avoid hurt feelings or playing to your own ego? Stop cannibalizing time. Invite only the key stakeholders who can then elect to invite others on their team as needed. The ability of a group to make a decision exponentially decreases as the number of attendees increases. Invite people solely based on their value in the meeting.
3. Decline any meeting invitation that doesn’t have a clear mission and agenda. Every meeting attendee must understand his or her purpose for being there. The invitation should answer two questions:
a. What is the mission of this meeting?
b. What is the outcome as a result of us spending this time together?
If the invite doesn’t answer these questions, request the information. Know the value you are supposed to bring to the meeting. In addition, if you don’t receive an agenda within 48 hours of the meeting, you have a right to request it, or decline the meeting.
4. Start on time, even if everyone hasn’t yet arrived. You want people to show up on time? Begin without them. (Warning: of course you must be on time as well).
5. Never ask or allow others to ask, “What did I miss?” Do not let stragglers command control of the floor. Do not aggravate, punish, and disrespect the other people in your meeting by rehashing what has already been discussed.
During the Meeting
Meetings are opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, and results. How you prepare, facilitate, and follow up makes all the difference.
Issue new “Ground Rules for Meetings” that contain the following requirements:
1. Dedicate the first five minutes to stating the clear objective and desired outcome of the meeting.
2. The default meeting length should be 15 minutes, not 30, as has been traditionally believed. Get in, get to the point, and get out.
3. Don’t hold a meeting just review material. Participants should review materials ahead of time. If the material has not been reviewed at the time the meeting begins, postpone and reschedule.
4. Use meetings to resolve issues, develop projects, and interact creatively and amicably.
5. Do not allow meeting presenters to prepare in front of the audience. They must arrive prepared or not come at all.
6. Hold no meetings on Fridays or Mondays. Instead use these days to get everything done for next week.
7. Meetings are now technology enabled. Make all meetings fully wi-fi accessible. Encourage participants to keep their phones out and on (set to vibrate, of course) rather than hiding them under the table. Have all meeting materials—agendas, supplemental materials, and visuals—available on the Web, accessible by smart phones iPads (and other netbooks). However, make it clear that these devices must be used solely to serve the purpose of the meeting. In other words, just before the meeting begins, tell participants to make sure their phones are out and on (right next to the meeting facilitator’s Taser device!).
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