Business Meetings that Matter - it's Possible!
Meetings come in all shapes and sizes. There are the everyday office meetings, board meetings, seminars -- all the way up to major conferences. And meetings can be face-to-face, teleconference or videoconference. And when is the last time you heard someone say, "Gee, we need to have more meetings."
There are more than enough meetings to go around these days, and
for a good reason. Meetings are more important than ever. Modern
workplaces are built on teams, sharing of ideas, and effective
project coordination. If communication is the lifeblood of any
organization, then meetings are the heart and mind. The place where
we communicate our ideas, hash them out, share our passion for
better or worse, develop new understandings and new directions.
It's where deals can happen or fall apart, where strategies are
articulated and debated -- in short -- where we engage with others.
That's what it's all about, people meeting with people. Survey
results published by the Annenberg School of Communications at UCLA
and the University of Minnesota's Training & Development Research
Center show that executives on average spend 40%-50% of their
working hours in business meetings. Further evidence of the
pervasiveness of meetings comes from a recent issue of Fast Company
magazine, where organizational psychologist Jon Ryburg says he
advises corporate clients to provide twice as much meeting space as
they did 20 years ago.
Studies also point out a discouraging trend: Surveyed professionals agree that as much as 50% of that meeting time is unproductive and that up to 25% of meeting time is spent discussing irrelevant issues. Typically, they complain that meetings are too long, are scheduled without adequate time to prepare and end without any clear result. Most of us have been to seminars or conferences where we've left feeling insipired and rejuvenated. But how many of us have ever left everyday meetings feeling the same way. Rarely, no doubt. The reason is that good seminars and conferences are organized precisely to engage us. Sadly, most office meetings are not.
Believe it or not, meetings can and should be the most interesting and productive part of your day. And if you've ever been to a great conference or seminar, you already have seen some of the basic principles at work. These can be summarized as:
Preparation means making sure your meeting has a clear, stated purpose, and an agenda. Participants are chosen carefully, invited in professional way and given sufficient prior information. Preparation also means attention to details including: room bookings, catering, a/v equipment, reminders.
Facilitation means that someone or a team is responsible for guiding the meeting, a plan for the meeting is reflected in the agenda and the facilitator (or chair) keeps things on time and on track.
Inspiration is probably the most overlooked aspect of everyday meetings. All the attention to detail and process can push the opportunity for spontaneity and enthusiasm aside. Build in activites that engage participants, use strategies to generate discussion, or visual aids to grab attention.
Results means that every meeting should be directed toward one or more outcomes. Participants must feel that something has been accomplished, and they must see all of their meetings as part of the bigger strategy to involve them in the future of the organization. Achievements at one meeting should be recapped in the next, and so on.