4 Pointers for Getting the Most Out of Meetings
I’ll make this short since we have limited time.
Don’t you wish people said that as they started meetings? Have you been in meetings and wondered why you were there -- what you were actually solving or agreeing to or why the group was reviewing things that some of those gathered already knew.
Or have you walked out of a meeting room with nothing changed, activated or made different -- except time pressure added to your calendar?
Given all the complaining I hear people doing about meetings, I sense that most gatherings fail to deliver the value people want to get from their time. These four tips, used alone or all together, can help:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
Meetings should be about action, what happens next. State that intention as your meeting begins: "By the end of this meeting, all of us will know X so that certain individuals can do Y."
Plan your meeting to deliver that information and confirm the actions that people will take going forward. And save the final few minutes to ensure that people know what they need to do next and have the information needed to get it done.
2. Allow for opt outs.
Think about "required" and “optional” participants. “Required” people will know or do something different as a result of the meeting. They’re the one who will act on the activities the meeting will drive.
Make some attendees optional and let them decide. If individuals aren’t sure that they’ll give or get something actionable or if they even think they’ll be multitasking (checking email, working on other things) during the meeting, give them the chance to not come -- and do something more productive.
3. Give people front work.
If there’s reading or preparation required for everyone to become aligned, ask people to get ready before the meeting.
If a lot of people need to prep, consider dividing the meeting into a smaller prep session followed by a decision or action session, so that key people aren’t tapping their feet waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Then when everyone’s gathered in the room, dive in knowing that all assembled are at the same level of knowledge. Never use meeting time to review what people already should know.
4. Estimate costs.
Everyone in a meeting room could potentially be doing something more productive with their time. Make sure that your meeting has an return on investment. The gathering doesn’t have to lead to one obvious result. It can be an investment in a project that will pay off in the future.
But be mindful of the cost of holding a meeting (and if you need some help, any of these meeting cost calculators will show the way). Consider the value of creating “what happens next” outcomes.
Decide who needs to activate the next steps. Do some light math to make sure the meeting will be worth the investment. And make adjustments. Even if you shorten your invite list or shave 15 minutes off the agenda, you’ll be making a better financial decision.
Consider trying at least one of these suggestions in the next meeting you host and then sharing a comment below.
Barbara Bates is the CEO of Hotwire North America, and the former founder and CEO of Eastwick Communications, which was acquired by Hotwire in 2016. She has more than 25 years’ experience working with brands to tell their stories, accelerate growth and build value working in Silicon Valley and beyond. Bates has partnered with some of the world’s biggest technology brands as well as emerging leaders to create high-impact communication strategies and was proud to be named in Business Insider’s 2014 list of 50 Best Public Relations People in Tech and one of the Top 5 Women in PR by the PR World Awards.