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: 1) preparation
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 activities 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.
Conducting a successful meeting.
Once the planning has been concluded, it is time to hold the meeting. Adhering to several simple rules can dramatically increase the likelihood that your meeting will be a productive one.
If you are facilitating the meeting, arrive early and be prepared. No exceptions to this rule are allowed. A late facilitator dampens the mood and gets the meeting off on the wrong foot because...