Meetings can be a complete waste of time.
Here are some tips on which meetings to avoid, and how to get the best out of those you do attend.
Define the objective of the proposed meeting
Because I had to rest a bit I needed to be more disciplined about how many meetings I could attend. This meant having to ask and challenge what every meeting was about. I often asked people exactly what they wanted out of the meeting and I soon realised that most of the answers they came up with could actually be dealt with in an email response or a quick telephone call. If that was the case, I chose not to have a meeting.
Even if you need to have a meeting, getting the person to define what they are looking for speeds things up. Set an agenda upfront so everyone is focused in terms of what needs to be achieved, ensure everyone knows what to prep before the meeting, and then stick to the agenda.
It is also a great idea to set a key objective (or objectives) at the beginning of the meeting and then check at the end if this has been achieved.
Use every minute wisely and cut down on wasted time
If you honestly need to have a face-to-face meeting (and this is sometimes the case, for example if it’s a brainstorming conversation that needs to happen between multiple people), think about how much time you need to achieve the objective defined.
It’s always intrigued me as to why we tend to set aside an hour for a meeting as the default. I have recently been setting up half-hour meetings and realised you can achieve as much in a short period of time, if you consciously cut out any unnecessary bits. For example, you might need to come to a team decision, which requires a meeting where everyone votes, but once the choice has been made, the details can be sorted out over email, or handed over to the person responsible for implementation.
Improve the minutes of the meeting
I’ve noticed that how the minutes of a meeting are compiled influences the action that is taken. For example, if the minute-taker writes down almost every word said, resulting in long paragraphs of text, important information may get lost in the mix. It also means the person is more likely to miss points or make everyone else wait as he or she tries to keep up.
In comparison, summarising discussions into short, sharp actions of what is required and when it needs to be done by (and who is responsible), ensures it’s easy to highlight key information and keep everyone focused on the same objectives.
Learn to do a quick summary
I like to summarise the key actions at the end of the meeting so everyone is aware of what needs to be done, and by what date. It ensures that everyone is on the same page, and is also a great way to show you were listening and to boost your visibility (even if you didn’t talk much during the meeting itself).