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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

How to avoid pointless meetings


How often have you found yourself in a meeting that lasted forever in which participants tried to solve all the problems of the world? After many hours of heated discussion about everything, with no solution, comes the exhaustion, disappointment and overall frustration. 

Lots of teams everywhere waste their time weekly in meetings that turn out to be empty chatter and ultimately mere waste of time. Nevertheless, meetings are an irreplaceable tool for managing and motivating people. How to organize a successful meeting in which every participant feels enriched? Before each meeting, check whether it meets the following conditions.

Usefulness


Keep in mind that meetings are expensive. After a one hour meeting every worker will need at least another half an hour in order to focus properly again on their previous activity. Suppose an hour of time of each participant costs the firm 100 USD. A given ordinary meeting, to deal with everyday issues, that takes an hour and includes eight people, will cost the company 800 USD. Not to mention that during the meetings all other work is left aside. Before arranging a meeting, answer the question whether it really is necessary. Maybe you will find out that regular weekly meetings are held just out of habit.

Target


Everything we do should have a goal. It sounds obvious but the vast majority of meetings, unfortunately, do not have a specific one. Often, not even the person who summoned the meeting knows exactly what its objective is.
Before arranging the meeting, try to determine the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-definable) objective. A vague objective such as "to discuss current issues in the company and team" can simply slip into empty chatter. "Finding outthe reasons for the decline in conversion rates for the last quarter for the new website" may be an example of a good goal to work with.

Plan


It can be helpful to follow a routine. For example:
  1. Describe the issue (manager)
  2. Provide 3 -5 ways of addressing it (team)
  3. Select the best solution (manager and/or selected team members)
  4. Appoint a responsible person and determine a time frame (manager)

Organize


Pick a suitable organizer for the meeting. The responsibility of the organizer is to make sure that the meeting follows its plan or at least that it will not drift too much. The team should understand that the organizer is supposed to interrupt and direct the conversations if necessary.

Timeframe and number of participants


As a rule, the effectiveness of a meeting is inversely proportional to its length and the number of participants. To manage a meeting of more than 30 minutes and more than 5 participants is very difficult. If due to a large volume of issues to discuss you need an hour or more, it is better to split the meeting into several parts. Participants may be split accordingly too.

Outcome


As previously mentioned, without a clear objective it is unlikely there will be any significant result. For that very reason a vast number of meetings happen in vain. The task organizer should work towards leading the meeting, according to its purpose, to a concrete outcome.

Example of a satisfactory result:

A company performs testing on two versions of a same site (a.k.a. “A/B testing”). Two weeks after the tests started, there should be a meeting in which all participants are supposed to send their analyses and, with the results at hand, it should be defined who will handle the necessary improvements, if any.


To lead meetings effectively is far from a straightforward task. There are even experts on conducting meetings, called “facilitators”. Their mission is to make communication easier and enable meeting participants to focus on the substance of the problem and its solution. Even without facilitators one can learn how to lead meetings effectively. For starters, try to record how much time you and your colleagues spend in meetings and see how much money it costs cost your business. Use a time tracking software. You may find that canceling a weekly meeting may save several thousands and give employees space for creating real value. Good luck! :-)

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