The inefficient management of meeting time is one of the biggest time wasters in organizational culture today. If you seriously reviewed your meeting schedule the past month, more than likely you could identify several hours of time that could have been used more effectively.
I am not a meeting hater. Meetings are an essential part of business and personal life. Meetings facilitate good communication, new ideas and problem solving strategies. Meetings are the perfect format for brainstorming and planning. Meetings can enhance teamwork and help reduce conflict.
We need meetings. We also need efficient and effective meetings where we can accomplish our meeting goals and move on to the next item on our agenda (or the next meeting). This is where many people get off track. Too often, meetings are either unnecessary in the first place, or last much longer than they need to, and accomplish less than they should.
The mismanagement of meetings is not only costing you precious time, it can cost you and your organization lots of money. I once analyzed this topic for the CEO of an organization. This fairly small organization had 14 employees. Every meeting lasted at least 1/3rd longer than necessary. I estimated the annual waste to that tiny organization at $200,000. Imagine the look on the CEO’s face when I presented those numbers!
The bottom line to meeting management is that most people can accomplish more work in less time if they manage their meetings properly. Here are a few simple steps you can use that, if adhered to will make your meeting life much more enjoyable and profitable:
Get rid of unnecessary meetings. Take an inventory of all the meetings you have on your schedule. Consider meetings of all sizes, from one-one-one to large group conferences. Include conference calls and webinars. Are there meetings you can do without or handle in another way? Are there a group of meetings that can be combined into fewer meetings?
Determine the meeting length in advance. Announce the meeting length in advance and stick to it. This should be published on the agenda (see the next point) or agreed upon in advance when arranging a meeting with an individual or group. I know people that when meeting them at a coffee shop will start the meeting by saying, “I’ve got 45 minutes.” I recently sat in another meeting where the chair of the informal group started by asking everyone what time they were leaving. We went around the table and agreed on a time. Both of these approaches are very effective techniques that I employ regularly. The key is—you have to stick to your time limit!
Have an agenda for every meeting. List the start and end time. Each item on your agenda should have a time limit. Again, stick to your times. If you chair the meeting, note your progress as it relates to the scheduled time. If you are serious about your time, everyone else will be as well.
Start your meetings on time. Don’t wait for people who are late. Start the meeting without them. Latecomers will get the message.
Conclude each meeting by summarizing your action items and who is responsible for each item. Agree upon timelines and related follow-up.
All of these meeting efficiency tips apply to individual, one-on-one and small group meetings as well as large meetings. It is easy for some of the conversation in smaller meetings to wander off topic. Watch for those moments and steer the conversation back to the previously agreed upon agenda.
You will be amazed at how much more you can accomplish by faithfully implementing these techniques. Imagine what you could do with all that extra time.