Meetings, Ah Meetings: Tips To Make Them Productive

If you ever stopped to figure out how much meetings cost, you would be amazed at the staggering price of a sit-down. We need to aware of the cost of having meetings and plan carefully. I’m not referring to the three-day off-site meetings that have a specific purpose to them. I’m talking about the daily meetings we have in our departments, staff meetings, or all-employee meetings.

Just think of it, if there are 10 people in the meeting and the meeting is three hours long and the average attendee earns $100,000 a year (including benefits), then the straight math suggests the meeting cost the company $2,000. Because it is payroll expense, one might not view it as incremental expenses. However, the important thing is to be cognizant of the fact that meetings do cost money and therefore the amount invested needs to produce a successful outcome for each meeting.

What are the essential ingredients for a successful meeting?

The leader needs to understand that successful meetings are based upon several factors-the potential of the group, the performance of the group, and the results from the group work.

Take potential for example: Meetings will have a low potential for success if they have:

  1. the wrong people for the issued being discussed
  2. individuals who are in conflict with each other
  3. people who do not have the requisite skills for an assigned task or
  4. people who do not know how to work effectively together. As we decide upon the agenda for a specific meeting, the amount of preplanning that goes into its preparation will have an impact on its potential for success.

When assembling the “raw materials” for a meeting, consider the following:

  • Have the right people attending.
  • Have people attend who are committed to the outcomes of the meeting.
  • Ensure attendees are prepared or have been given enough time to prepare.
  • Ensure that the meeting room is adequate and comfortable, including flip charts, etc.
  • Be sure that the time allotted for the subject is adequate for the topic.
  • Ensure members are skilled in communications and problem solving.

Other tips to help achieve successful meetings are:

  • Start and end on time.
  • Determine how all participants will be heard.
  • Communicate what is expected of all attendees.
  • Performance has a lot to do with how individuals behave within the group environment and this is largely through communications. Characteristics of high-quality communications include:

Interaction and balance: The worst effect is when one or two people do all the talking. The best meetings that I have been involved with include active participation by all-giving everyone an opportunity to contribute to the meeting’s success.

Respect: It is important in any group work that individuals respect each other and each other’s viewpoint. Often, respect breaks down when individuals do not listen to each other-one of the most important elements of a successful communications strategy.

Clarity: When communications are vague and oblique, individuals find it difficult to contribute to the quality of the conversation. Take for example when someone says, “the customer is being difficult.” From that statement it would be next to impossible to find the solution to deal with the customer’s frustration.

Relevance: It is important in any discussion that there is a building concept, that those communicating are building on the conversation. How often have we heard individuals interject a comment that misses the mark entirely and has the effect of temporarily derailing the conversation? This is time consuming and the team will inadvertently take a detour that can be distracting. Sometimes this occurs when individuals want to speak simply for the sake of speaking.

Results are the third and most important element of all successful meetings. Each meeting should focus on producing two sets of results.

  1. Achieving the goals of the meeting, and
  2. Improving the process for doing its work at meetings, thereby increasing the team’s potential for improved performance. The latter maintains a genuine chance to grow.

Now ask yourself…am I a leader?

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