If your meetings stretch out endlessly, don’t end with a clear path forward, or are full of people playing Angry Birds under the conference room table, you might need a meeting intervention!
Here are seven tips to get your meetings back on track.
Before you schedule a meeting, first ask yourself these questions:
• Is this something that could be just as easily conveyed in a memo or email?
• Is this a discussion (meaning there will be back-and-forth, which is what a meeting should be for) or just information-sharing (which might point you back to a memo or email)?
• Who really needs to be there? Are you about to invite people who won’t contribute or benefit from attending?
If you can’t come up with an agenda, you shouldn’t be holding a meeting. Before calling a meeting, you should be clear on what needs to be discussed and what outcomes you’re looking for.
Announce up-front what you want the take-aways from the meeting to be. You might say at the start, “We have one hour to cover A, B, and C. At the end of this meeting, I’m hoping we’ll have ___.”
If a topic comes up during the meeting that isn’t on the agenda, decide on the spot if it’s truly important enough to displace another topic. Usually it won’t be, and in those cases, you should say, “Let’s put that on the agenda for another time” and move the conversation back to what you’re there to discuss.
If you don’t take the start time seriously, people will start showing up later and later, wasting more and more of the punctual participants’ time. Apply the same rigor to the ending time, too: Set a time limit, announce it at the start, and warn people when you’re five or ten minutes away from wrapping things up.
Whether it’s you or someone else, someone needs to be in charge of keeping the meeting moving, redirecting conversation as needed, teasing out action items, cutting off ramblers, and wrapping it up on time.
Nothing is worse than a long meeting that ends with no clear path forward. So at the end of every meeting, make sure everyone is clear on next steps – that the conversation has been translated into action items, and each of those action items has a clear owner.