People hate meetings and complain that meetings are a necessary evil. One reason is that most meetings end with little decided or accomplished and seem to be a waste of people’s busy time. Most meetings now waste over an hour's time – before they even get started.
Here is your typical meeting:
1. Organizer arrives exactly on time or even a bit late.
2. Organizer turns on laptop PC and starts connecting to AV projector.
3. Organizer has problems with AV equipment: Is it input channel 1 or 2? Which laptop keys bring up the PC display with the projector?
4. Organizer tries calling into telecon number: What was my leader code number again?
5. Remote callers start calling into telecom number: Where is the telecon number in the original email? What is the participant call-in number?
6. Organizer and remote callers have problems calling into telecon number.
7. Organizer and/or attendees have problems connecting to Internet Meeting site, e.g. Webex or LiveMeeting: “It’s asking me to download some plug-in software…”
8. Organizer and attendees start calling up remote attendees with their cell phones to discuss, troubleshoot, and work around meeting problems: “Okay, forget the teleconference, we’ll try conferencing everyone via the desk phone here…”, “Joe, you’ll just have to listen to the call and we’ll describe the slides to you.”
The average meeting described above starts 5 - 10 minutes late. If we conservatively estimate that at least 6 people attend a meeting, 6 people each wasted 10 minutes before they got down to having a meeting. So we lose at least 60 minutes in a 1 hour meeting!
1. Organizer – show up at the meeting venue and set up your PC and telecon connection BEFORE the meeting start time! This is like throwing a party and set up the refreshment, music, or tables when guests arrive. You do the prep work ahead of time.
2. Set up the meeting for a reasonable time. This may be difficult when you are trying to accommodate many different time zones but avoid setting up the meeting the first thing in the morning or the last thing on Friday. (Yes, you may show up at 7 AM in the office but not everyone does.) You don’t gain much when attendees rush into a meeting harried from fighting traffic. Starting a meeting too early only sets you up for latecomers and a very late meeting has people watching the clock.
3. Have an Agenda. Too many people show up at a meeting with no clue what the meeting is about. The agenda should list time, participants, purpose, proposed outcome, issues, and presenters. I've found the attached agenda template to be a very useful.
4. Distribute reference material that should be reviewed before the meeting. Readng material during the meeting is wasteful and unproductive.
5. Whenever possible, sit down with key people prior to the meeting to provide background information on issues of concern to them so that there will be no surprises strung on them or back at you.
6. Take minutes with action items.
7. Stay on topic. Table or “park” off-topic issues.
8. Start on time. End on time. We are all tempted to wait for stragglers but this sets a bad precedent for future meetings and is discourteous to those who are punctual.
9. Prohibit use of laptops if they have nothing to do with the meeting. Typing away on one's laptop for other business during a meeting is disrespectful to all attendees.
10. Five Minutes Rule – walk out of if the organizer does not show up within 5 minutes of his or her own scheduled meeting. Your company already wasted 30 minutes!