Projects / Meetings
How to Banish Boring Meetings – 13 Top Tips
Chances are – no matter what you do for a living or where you work – you have suffered through several bad meetings and maybe it happens to you regularly! As the infographic below indicates, a bad meeting has no goals (and therefore drifts along or quickly off topic), lacks any kind of real structure, drags on for too long, does not make any decisions or even quickly spirals into a circular, never-ending argument between two or more of the workplace “gas-bags”. In general therefore, meetings are seen by many as something we have to endure as part of our job and most of us consequently hope they will be over with as quickly as possible – even if this does feel like ripping off a plaster!
Instead of accepting meetings as the necessary evil of the modern workplace, we are not as “hostage” to the process as much as we think and we have the power to change the way we meet. The Citrix organization (which produces the leading meeting videoconferencing tool – GoToMeeting) did some research on how to improve the meeting experience and this resulted in the 13 tips shown in the info-graphic below. To summarize these tips are:
- Consider Video meetings as an alternative. These are often more convenient to people – can be accessed by people from many locations easily and tend to be shorter than face-to-face meetings.
- Set and objective/clear purpose for the meeting. This is worth writing down and putting into the meeting invitation and being put on the top of any meeting agenda for all to see.
- Only invite people who are necessary to be in the meeting. Research suggests that over 50% of all meetings attendees do not need to be there – if they care or can make decisions they should be – if this is not the case avoid wasting their time.
- Circulate an agenda well ahead of time. An agenda is crucial. It doesn’t have to be long but it should provide a sensible structure for the meeting and ideally allocate time to each topic. This helps people know what will be covered and to better prepare.
- Ask meeting attendees to prepare and fully participate. Naturally you want people at your meetings who have thought about the topics to be discussed (described in your agenda) and to contribute fully and not be a passenger.
- Direct questions at individuals. A good meeting chair will involve everyone in the meeting by asking questions of them – this ensures high levels of engagement for all participants.
- Keep things focused and prevent off-topic discussions. While it is tempting to let some conversations drift at times, it tends to frustrate the process and people. A good chair will therefore maintain strong control and move things on when necessary.
- Use drawing tools. In a physical meeting a white board or flip chart to draw is always useful. And in electronic meetings there are now great drawing tools that can allow participants to share sketches, diagrams and rough drawings with everyone very easily.
- Use webcams. When people can’t make a physical meeting, allow them to dial in and have a webcam to see and be seen. An in an online meeting, choose webcam based meetings over audio only ones where you can as people always prefer to be able to see people.
- Use VoIP where you can. There are many great and often free voice-over tools and channels these days which are well worth investigating and using for many of your meetings.
- Encourage participants to join a meeting from their mobile when necessary. Not that long ago phones were not the best way to attend a meeting when they were on the move but now smart phones are much clearer and can allow relatively full participation.
- Assign follow–up actions. Once a meeting topic discussion is over, and certainly at the end of the meeting, assigning actions to individuals with dates is the best way to make decisions and ensure that follow up meetings can check-in readily on what has been achieved (or not).
- Press that record button. You may not want to record all your meetings but it’s so easy these days that you might want to consider doing so and then making this available to anyone that couldn’t make it and would benefit from hearing the discussion.
We are always interested in hearing about other tips that can make meetings more interesting or less boring but, at least for now, try to take up as many of these 13 tips as you can and start implementing them at your workplace – then many more people can stop having “horrible” meetings and perhaps we can become meeting “superstars”.