Meetings are necessary. We have to have them to move business forward, make decisions, plan projects and communicate with cross-functional teams. They are an intrinsic business component.
But what is not a given is an effective meeting. We all want them, want to be in them and want to host them. But often, we are faced with meetings that are either poorly managed, unnecessary or a huge time suck.
How much time do you spend in meetings? I’ll bet it’s more than you think.
I average about four or five planned meetings per week, about an hour each. For half of those meetings I am the lead, so I spend an additional hour per meeting preparing each week. The other half, I typically have to be reasonably prepared for which requires research, brushing up on current topics etc., so that I can pitch in when needed—so let’s say 30 minutes per. In addition to planned meetings, there are typically one to three impromptu meetings that pop up on my calendar each week, that I do not prepare for due to lack of information or timing. Add in a couple of group Skype chats and phone calls and I’m looking at about 15 hours of a 40-hour work week spent in meetings, which I’ll admittedly say is on the low side. I can easily double that for a few co-workers who work with different teams or with customers. But still that’s more than 30 percent of my time spent in or preparing for meetings.
I’m sure you can relate.
Taking Back Control of Your Meetings
Job growth in the meeting and event planning sectors is expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent from 2016 to 2026. And that’s because our work lives are intertwined with meetings, so instead of just accepting the status quo, let’s change it, one meeting, one meeting participant, one meeting manager at a time.
We wanted to face common meeting obstacles and challenges head-on and provide solutions to help overcome them. We see you, unproductive meetings, and we are coming for you.
Obstacle No. 1: No agenda, or lack of a clear agenda
Yes, the subject of the meeting is likely clear, the who, when and where. But not always the why.
SOLUTION: Set agendas, topics or even a bulleted list of talking points to help attendees be on the same page and prepare for an upcoming meeting. This way, when all are present at the table, you eliminate the haziness. It even helps to summarize the objectives one more time before you get started.
RELATED STORY: 10 tips for clock-wise agendas
Obstacle No. 2: Changing priorities and schedules
This can be mitigated, but not always avoided. In our fast-paced environments and customer-centric worlds, priorities can and will change. A key person may no longer be able to attend the meeting and only give you a 30-minute heads up. While it’s important to stay focused and push through, if key persons are not available then you will likely need to find a new time or place.
SOLUTION: Luckily, advanced software tools help you edit meetings on the fly, especially when it comes to mobile meeting management tools, where you can manage your meetings and be sensitive of other team members while you’re on-the-go.
Obstacle No. 3: People show up late or get lost
Back-to-back meetings exist. And meetings often go over the allotted time, causing schedules to get disrupted or pushed back. Also, with sprawling corporate campuses, there are too many rooms and locations to keep track of that occasionally people get lost or confused on their way to the dedicated meeting space, resulting in late arrivals which causes meetings to not start on time or having to repeat information.
SOLUTION: The only way around this, other than a printed map of your offices, is to leverage new technology that has embedded functionality for way-finding. With this type of immersive functionality, your meeting attendees can literally find their way to each and every meeting room with turn-by-turn directions that cut across buildings and even floors. Knowing where they need to be and how to get there will hopefully ensure your attendees are prompt. If not, notification reminders 10 minutes before the meeting help.
Obstacle No. 4: Meeting room overload
On the other hand, sometimes there just aren’t enough places and spaces to meet, or the chosen meeting room gets double booked. And as we just mentioned, meetings often go over time, and when you’re supposed to take over a room at the time you booked it for, there’s a chance the meeting previously in that room needs another 15 minutes and they aren’t willing to budge.
SOLUTION: Looks like you’re going to have to find a new space or new time. Mobile apps with built-in functionality to edit meetings at a moment’s notice keeps all participants in the loop. That way if you do have to change locations, calendars will automatically be updated with time and/or location so those that haven’t arrived yet will be synced up. Another great tool to use is advanced meeting room booking capabilities like finding a conference room based on your meetings parameters: by capacity, proximity and, of course, availability.
RELATED STORY: #EventCanvas FTW!
Obstacle No. 5: No follow through
The worst outcome from a meeting is lack of action. This tends to cause additional meetings to be scheduled to review what was talked about in the former meeting.
SOLUTION: To ensure that your meeting was not only efficient but also effective, be sure to always end your meetings with clear action items, follow-ups and to-dos. This should be given to specific individuals or even teams and have expectations of delivery associated with them. Better yet, get verbal buy-in before leaving the room.
Obstacle No. 6: Lack of input
As I’ve experienced before, sometimes you’re the meeting leader, sometimes you’re a participant (or even unknowing participant) and sometimes you’re an observer. Regardless of what people think their role is, collaboration is the key ingredient for any meeting. You need to have thinkers and doers in the room to help solve challenges or push tasks through. But do the people in the meeting know that? Are they prepared?
SOLUTION: In addition to a documented agenda, it also helps to have open communication channels for collaboration to progress a meeting forward. You, as the project owner or meeting manager, need to develop strong collaboration before, during and after to keep meetings focused, productive and innovative.
RELATED STORY: The 33 skills meeting and event planners need to succeed
The toughest part about being responsible for meetings is ensuring you’re not wasting anyone’s time, including your own. These common challenges in the workplace are ever present but can be overcome—you just have to embrace tools, technology and a personal dedication to ensure that you’re creating and delivering a team experience that moves business and productivity forward. It’s no easy task, but someone’s got to do it!
And when all else fails…donuts!