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Meetings, while helpful, can be a massive drain on time and resources and not always the most productive use of your time. For the busy eventprof here is how to get more from your meetings.
An unnecessary and long-drawn out meeting can leave you feeling drained and negatively impacts productivity. They can be the bane of any eventprof’s existence and a real time sucking task that leads to more problems than it solves, by disrupting your day and stopping you from focusing on the real work to be done.
Many meetings can be avoided if you know how to assess your current problem to decide if it is more efficient (and cost-effective) to meet face-to-face or do it another way. It’s okay to decide that a meeting is necessary, but if you do, here’s how to cut down on meeting time, make them more productive and stop them from taking over your working life.
Is A Meeting Actually Necessary?
Determining the validity of a meeting can be tricky, particularly if you lack confidence but asking yourself these questions will give you a clear answer as to what you need to do. The important part to remember is not to spend a lot of time on this, it is designed to stop you wasting it!
What Is The Meeting Actually About?
What do you actually need? Are you looking for ideas, tips, is it problem solving you want or do you need to clarify some points? Determining what you need beforehand will help you decide if a quick conversation with a colleague would solve your problem or if it needs something larger. Often we think a problem is bigger than it is until we work out what exactly we can’t get past!
For problem solving, try doing some of the work beforehand by brainstorming and seeing what you come up with. You may find you get close and end up with 2 or 3 options that you need advice on rather than a whole team to brainstorm with you, which saves everyone time and effort, while making you more independent.
If you are only looking for inspiration or ideas, send out a group email and create a group document where people can drop ideas in and collaborate, building on each other’s ideas, without having to have an actual meeting.
A Quick Cost Analysis
How many people would you involve in your meeting and how long do you expect it would take? Would you need a boardroom or to use another office or could you use your own? What sort of resources or technical equipment would you need and would you need IT staff to help you set it up?
All of these things cost money and the more people you integrate into your meeting, the higher the costs because you are taking them away from doing their work. If the project, problem or discussion is not worth as much as the costs, you have your answer.
Is It Simple Or Confusing?
If you are collaborating with others on difficult ideas it can sometimes be best to meet face-to-face to stop things getting lost in translation. If you are dealing with something simple then collaborative documents, video conferencing or even phone calls and emails could be enough to smooth out what you need.
Boosting Meeting Productivity
Sometimes meetings can be unavoidable, particularly when planning tricky events with specific issues that need discussing face to face. In this case, here are some tips and tricks to make meetings the most productive and avoid spending unnecessary time on this inevitable time sucking task.
Set A Time Limit
Let attendees of the meeting know how long it will last beforehand and stick to it. This not only allows them to plan their day accordingly but sets a level of expectation about how much needs to be covered so that they don’t bring extra problems or issues with them. When you have a time limit, also have a clock or timer visible during the meeting so that everyone can keep an eye on progress and they don’t wait to say something at the end when there is no time to cover it.
2. Be Clear On An Objective
Know exactly what you want to achieve and understand the goal of the meeting so that you don’t go off on a tangent or find at the end you didn’t get what you needed as this will have wasted everyone’s time and you will still need another meeting anyway. Set an agenda, give it to everyone and make sure to stay on topic, particularly if you are dealing with a larger, complex issue that takes up time.
3. Have A Clear Leader or Meeting Chair
Have someone who can oversee the meeting, keep things focused on the agenda items, move things along if there is slow progress and encourage everyone to contribute. They should be able to politely stop anyone who is taking too much time and let them know that their contributions are valued but that others need an opportunity to input and there isn’t enough time. Mediators can also help to quickly dissolve disagreements that can lead to time wasted while ensuring everything on the agenda is covered.
4. Don’t Overfill
It’s tempting to try and stuff as many items as possible into a meeting and deal with it all at once but this is actually counterproductive as longer meetings cause people to switch off. The longer the agenda, the more complicated the meeting becomes and this increases the opportunity for time wasting and going off on a tangent, so keep meetings short and sweet.
5. Little and Often
Little and often can be better than a 2-hour marathon meeting and keeps everything energized and to the point. Some people swear by 10 or 12-minute meetings, although this might be easier to implement for internal meetings rather than client facing meetings.
6. Send A Follow Up Email
It’s important to send an email or memo around after the meeting with the notes or minutes of everything that has been covered to make sure that everyone understands what their designated responsibilities are, where to go with the information and confirming that everyone has walked away on the same page, knowing actions and deadlines. This prevents the need for another meeting in the future if there has been misunderstandings and ensures everyone remembers what has been discussed.
7. Mix It Up
Change venue, go outside, do something different than the monotonous meeting in the boardroom. Take away the chairs or have a walking meeting to banish boredom, as that hinders focus and creativity and prevents event planners from coming up with innovative ideas. Everyone is more productive when happier and this means they are more likely to contribute and stay focused during the meeting and will get it over more quickly.
8. Make Your Point Once
Approach a point, bring it up, deal with it and then move on, don’t move on until it’s solved and then don’t revisit it once it’s done. Aside from being repetitive and boring it can waste time and open the floor for others to revisit other areas that they have changed their mind on. Deal with an issue once and have that be the rule for everyone!
9. Time It Wisely
Timing the meeting to catch people at the right time, while encouraging them to stick to the time limit, can be an art form. if you think it may run over or have known “chatters” in the group, have your meeting before lunch or the end of the day when people are less likely to chit chat as they want their break or to go home so will have less problem keeping an eye on the time. Alternatively, if you have a lot of ground to cover, aim for first thing in the morning so that everyone is fresh and focused and not in the afternoon post-lunch lull!
10. Send Resources Beforehand
If you have research or information that is relevant to the meeting, send it around beforehand and ask everyone to read and digest it prior to the meeting so that you don’t spend the first part of the meeting reading things through. Ask everyone at the beginning to bring any questions or uncertainties up and then once that is dealt with everyone can start on the same page. This avoids time wasting and keeps the attention of those who read quicker preventing them from switching off while waiting for everyone else.
11. Stop The “Presentation”
Visuals can be useful tools to accompany a meeting and get your point across but ask yourself if an entire presentation is necessary. If the answer is yes, then make presentations relevant and useful and don’t just repeat or read the information on the slides.
12. Invite The Right People
Have the required people at a meeting and avoid overcrowding it, remembering that the more people there are, the chances of chatting and going over time are increased. Invite those who are affected or have input into a problem or area, as you may find that outsiders offer conflicting opinions and don’t have the necessary knowledge so slow the pace of the meeting down. That being said, you may opt for the meeting Chair to be a neutral 3rd party so that there is no bias and they can deal with the matters at hand.
As you can see there is a lot to consider when it comes to meetings but the first step is knowing exactly what you need and if you really need a meeting at all. A lot of time can be saved if you spend a little time determining if it is actually necessary and what the purpose is beforehand and this can get half of the work done for you. Hopefully, you can use some of these meeting tactics to make the most of your meetings and avoid wasting precious time and energy unnecessarily.