Meetings are a necessary evil in everyone’s working life. Handled well, they can help the attendees get to the bottom of tricky situations, agree actions, and do something positive. Handled badly, they can be a terrific waste of time. Basically, you want to get in and out as soon as possible with the relevant decisions made so that you can get on with the rest of your day.
Read this excerpt from Manage Your Time, part of the series of everywoman Simple Approach to Business guides to get some advice on holding effective meetings.
First Step: Decide if you really need a meeting
In some cases, meetings are not always a good use of people’s time and effort.
If someone suggests that a meeting be held to discuss an issue related to your project, team, or department, think hard about whether gathering the attendees in one place is really the most efficient way forward. There may be more time-saving alternatives to gathering everyone together for a meeting. For example, you could try:
- Conference calls or videoconferencing. If you have access to these facilities, or can afford them, they offer a good way of holding a discussion without having to disrupt the attendees’ day too much.
- Discuss the issue via e-mail by sending a message to all relevant parties. Your e-mail should set out the issue clearly, ask for a response, and give a deadline. And double-check that you have included everyone before sending it!
If all else fails, though, and a face-to-face meeting seems to be the best and least unwieldy way of agreeing action on the issue at hand, prepare as much as you can in advance and delegate where appropriate.
"We organize an agenda for every meeting. Each ‘talk point’ on the agenda is scheduled to take 10 minutes. The chair of the meeting keeps us all on target and doesn’t allow anything to last longer than 10 minutes. We don’t do any work in the meetings - we only take decisions, because getting five people to work on something at those times is really ineffective. If a decision can’t be taken straightaway, we nominate two people to work offline and bring it to the next meeting when we vote on it."
Liz Jackson, Great Guns Marketing
"I think I’m fairly naturally assertive – but I’ve had to learn to manage this so that I’m effectively assertive. For example, when you think a discussion in a meeting is not addressing the point in question, there is a right way of going about bringing everyone back in focus without being seen as bombastic."
Stephanie Manuel Stagecoach Theatre Arts plc
"Internal meetings have to be kept to a minimum. Very often a phone call will suffice. Stick to a start and finish time and make sure you have an agenda. Being in a sales environment, we’re very good at talking, so we have to be strict! With clients, of course, that’s a different matter. I’ll spend as much time with them as they want."
Debbie Burke Roc Recruitment
This article features in Manage Your Time from the series of everywoman Simple Approach to Business guides.