Nothing brings this feeling of self-determination to a screeching halt like a business-meeting smack in the middle of a productive day. You know the feeling. You’re cranking the work out – really making progress – and there it is on your calendar – like quick sand in the freshly cut path through the jungle. A meeting.
As much as you’d like to, you can’t avoid them. Sometimes you need to sit with someone face-to-face and hash things out. Occasionally, it’s the only way to get things done. There are some things you can do to keep things moving and make the most out of your time. Here are five steps you can take to have productive meetings.
Step One: Set a Start Time and An End Time
Most people have a firm start time for their meetings but the end is a loose guideline at best. This is a huge mistake.
Setting an end time and letting everyone know you will walk out of the room when that time comes is the best way to create urgency and stay on track. This also helps keep distractions to a minimum.
When you set the meeting and when you confirm it, make sure you get agreement from everyone involved about the “hard stop” at the end.
Step Two: Publish an Agenda in Advance
There should be no surprises during your meeting. All attendees should have the opportunity to prepare in advance. Start on time and stick to the published program.
Predictability is your friend. It helps everyone stay focused.
Step Three: Agree on a Desired Outcome
As soon as the meeting starts, announce the desired outcome and get buy-in from all attendees.
Working toward a common goal is the best way to make certain this time is productive. This also creates a sense of common purpose and a feeling of goodwill – both of which lead to a higher level of productivity and engagement.
Step Four: Only Invite Necessary People
Limit the meeting attendees to people invested in the outcome. All too often people create meeting invitations using a scattershot approach – in other words they invite everyone they know.
This is a bad idea. Keep the list of attendees to people who have maximum control over the desired outcome. If you’re not sure if some belongs, when in doubt, leave them out.
Step Five: Create Actionable Next Steps
As the meeting ends, make certain each person knows what he/she needs to do next.
The key to making the most of the meeting is to assign tasks as a result.
Each person agreeing to take some action is the best way to make this happen. Without this step, the entire meeting will be a waste of time.
This doesn’t need to be an elaborate production. Simply go around the table and get people to agree on the action item assigned to them.
You cannot avoid every meeting. Sometimes they are a necessity. Follow these five steps and your next meeting will be focused and productive.