BY DAN COOK
Are meetings leaving you feeling drained, frustrated and concerned about how much of your life has been spent in pointless banter with colleagues who’d rather be anywhere than in a meeting?
Guess what — you’re in the majority. According to a Robert Half Management Resources survey of more than 400 employees who attend meetings, most of them said that a quarter of their meeting times are wasted. Asked to cite the primary reasons behind unproductive meetings, here’s how their answers (multiple answers were permitted) broke down:
- 30 percent identified no clear purpose or agenda for meetings;
- 30 percent cast their vote for agenda straying;
- 20 percent were cranky about meetings that don’t end when they are supposed to;
- 15 percent carped about late starting times;
- 14 percent complained that people were invited to meetings who didn’t need to be there.
What to do? Robert Half doesn’t just supply data, it offers solutions as well. Here are five ways to create a more successful meeting.
Review the invite list. Limit attendees to those participants who have a stake in the outcome of items on the agenda. Indicating “required” versus “optional” attendance lets employees know when their participation and input is necessary and can help them prioritize their time.
Keep on track. Good leaders ensure the agenda and any supporting materials are accessible and publicized in advance, and that the discussion remains focused. Be prepared to cut off or table an unrelated conversation until a later time.
Plan accordingly. If it’s an in-person meeting, make sure there are enough seats in the room for everyone. Leave time for setup and pre-meeting technology challenges that may arise.
Monitor time. Keep it short and sweet. If a standing meeting is booked for an hour each week, but it usually lasts just 30 minutes, consider rethinking the time allotted. If there’s not much to discuss, consider using email or a memo as an alternative to a meeting.
Finish strong. If anyone leaves the meeting wondering what the next steps are, you haven’t done your job as meeting host. Allow time for people to ask questions, and determine who has responsibility for each follow-up item.