If you’ve been a part of the business world for any longer than 5 minutes, you’ll be familiar with the good old business meeting and how it works. You will also have experienced two vastly different types of meetings.
When you leave the first one, you feel energised, motivated and crystal clear on either what you need to do next, or precisely where a project is currently at in the business.
But at the end of the second one, which seems like it will never actually come, you slide your phone back in your pocket, drag yourself out of the meeting room and try to make it to a coffee machine before your eyes go back to sleep.
Sound familiar? It should. While meetings are supposed to be a time-effective and powerful way of solving problems, in today’s business environment they’ve been reduced to real life Dilbert comics – long, pointless, and a waste of staff salaries.
The world’s top organisations put rules in place to ensure each meeting is useful and takes up the smallest possible time slot. They’re simple and easy to replicate. Here are 5 of them which you can start applying immediately in your own workplace to transform the results and efficiency of your own staff gatherings.
1) Start with your purpose
Famous speaker and entrepreneur Brian Tracy says that “the opening five to seven minutes in any meeting is the most important component to conducting more effective meetings.”
When everyone sits down, Tracy recommends, tell everyone what the purpose of your meeting is and what goals or solutions you want to accomplish in it. This sets the tone for the meeting and also clarifies the purpose for anyone unclear or those not up to speed. It also forces you or the meeting creator to be focused in their own mind about what they want to achieve.
2) Start and end on time. Every time
In some companies, if a meeting is set for 11 am, the doors to the meeting room get closed and locked at 11:01. For many this might be a step too far, but the point is to always get started at the exact meeting time in the calendar. If people rock up late, don’t start again for them.
Make sure the meeting is finished within the allotted time in the calendar, even if you don’t get a solution. It allows everyone to plan their time better and creates better efficiency and effectiveness.
If you’ve had a history of meetings starting or running late, it can be difficult to get traction with this in the beginning. But stick with it, and everyone will adjust.
3) Call for an outcome
All too often a meeting discussion will go on a completely irrelevant tangent that’s way off topic. Unless the meeting’s purpose is to deliver information, you’re there to contribute ideas and get closer towards an outcome of some kind. Make sure you remind people of that if things start heading off course.
If you need extra convincing about the importance of this, count the number of staff in a meeting, times it by their hourly rate and adjust for the time it took to get back to the agenda. It will make you cringe, and stop you ever allowing it again!
4) Ban phones and technology
Forbes magazine reports that one rule many successful executives swear by in their meetings is banned technology. It’s a big call, but it works in situations where no one needs a phone or tablet to make a contribution.
Think back to the most effective meetings you’ve had in the last few months. How often did you actually need a phone or tablet? 9 times out of 10 it’s not required, and if staff are using tech, it’s because they’re growing bored and have stopped listening. Make it stop.
5) Don’t call a meeting (unless you have to)
While meetings can push projects along and shed light on problems from valuable perspectives, it’s too easy for them to become the default answer to everything. What gets circulated in meetings can often be sent via email instead. Meetings are a form of distraction, too – make sure you call them only when you absolutely must.
Meetings can be incredibly productive and powerful – if you put the right systems in place to allow them to be. All of these tips have the potential to skyrocket the results and efficiency of meetings in your own office, but most importantly, they need to be enforced to have an impact. Decide what changes need to be made to your meeting rules, email them to everyone in the team, and uphold them. You’ll be glad you did.
Clive Barrett is the Executive Chairman of First Class Financial Group, Australia’s largest financial support services franchise providing bookkeeping, finance and tax services.