Ever wonder why people leave meetings feeling so frustrated? It’s not just that most meetings waste a tremendous amount of time, it’s also because people have an intuitive sense that it doesn’t have to be that way.
They sense that if only this group of people were having a different set of conversations than the ones they just had, maybe the meeting could have actually been a productive, even satisfying experience.
One major issue in many meetings is that so much time is spent providing information that could have easily been shared beforehand. Playing catch-up during time that is meant for decision-making is inefficient and expensive (how much is an hour of your executive team’s time worth?)
Of course, information can be shared around the conference table, but meetings run much more smoothly when decision makers have that information ahead of time. That way they have the time to process it, investigate further, and share with others. Once you’re confident everyone has the information they need, you are ready to meet and decide what to do with it.
Here are the 3 conversations you’re not having, but should to make your meetings way more productive and engaging:
In most meetings, people talk in circles because it’s not clear what decisions they are actually trying to make. Even when it is clear what decision you’re making, it’s often not clear how it will be made. Are you going to just discuss the topic for 20 minutes and then sense where the group is heading? Majority vote? Leader decides?
In your next meeting, try this: For each topic, spend a few minutes up front determining the decision you need to make and the rules you’ll use to make it. Then spend a few minutes at the end making sure you a have clear agreement about whether a consensus was reached or not.
How many times have you walked out of a meeting with a bunch of ideas and potential next steps whirling around your head, but without real clarity about what you’re supposed to do and when?
For each project or topic, make sure you have the conversation to determine exactly who is going to perform which specific action items, and when those action items are expected to be completed. This one conversation can make the difference between an entirely useless meeting, and concrete changes like increased revenue, product improvements, or increased levels of customer satisfaction.
It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll always have all of the information you need and all the right people in the room to resolve every nuance of the topics you’re discussing. And yet, if people feel like important issues are being left aside, it will be difficult for them to concentrate and stay focused.
Carve out time at the end of discussing each topic or agenda item to ask: “what still needs to be resolved?” At the very least, put it on a list of open issues, and at best, create a plan for exactly who will do what by when to resolve the issue. It may help to have a running list (AKA ‘parking lot’) going throughout the meeting so that people know you’re not just skipping over the items, and that you plan to come back to them later.
In your next meeting, regardless of the overall topics, make sure to have these 3 conversations with the group – and you’re likely to leave feeling way less frustrated and way more clear on why you had the meeting and what’s supposed to happen next.
Dave Kashen is co-founder & CEO of MeetingHero, a startup with a mission to rid the world of soul-crushing meetings. The MeetingHero web app makes it easier for teams to have productive, engaging meetings by having the conversations they’re not having, but should.
Image Credit: funny-pictures.feedio.net
Tell us your worst meeting story in the comments below. What methods have you used to make meetings more productive and satisfying?