There has been a lot of talk about meetings lately, particularly in these times where social contact needs to be regulated.
Meetings are a staple of modern business and have long been used to get things done.
They can be a great mechanism for communication – with a view to spurring decisions and actions to achieve objectives.
Unfortunately, along the way, the humble meeting got hijacked by inefficiencies and ineffectiveness and became a waste creator.
Why has this come to pass? If you are looking for the answer, your first port of call should be the imperfect vessels that are human beings.
Too many meetings disintegrate and create an environment where people do a lot of talking but actually say nothing constructive.
Some people have a gift for getting to the point quickly and, not surprisingly, those meetings tend to be effective and generate value.
There is a time and place for exposition and explanation, but you need to be careful that attendees are not lost along the way or get frustrated.
In my view, the key message(s) of any meeting should always be delivered early.
I recall a meeting I once attended in Australia where the chairperson walked attendees through 10 years of activity, used the phrases "at the end of the day" and "1+1=3" multiple times before delivering a decision that lasted all of 20 seconds. Most attendees were bewildered, which was not the intention.
Then there is the video conference meeting.
Sometimes participants find that the lack of human contact detracts from the effectiveness of the meeting.
It is really common for participants (particularly where you have three or more) talking over one another or participants freezing, so ground regularly is covered more than once.
But, there is good news, meetings remain a powerful medium within which to strategise and make important decisions but it is important that the requisite expertise and experience is available to contribute to those decisions.
Some best practice meeting requirements (which also work for Zooming):
• A defined and relevant purpose (preferably to make decisions) – remember that a meeting and a workshop are completely different things
• A clear agenda with a defined start and conclusion time
• The key people are in attendance – have a rule that people cannot switch off their camera on a video conference
• The appropriate level of documentation is provided ahead of the meeting (all material information provided upfront)
• Participants have fully read and understood their papers
• An effective chairperson leads the meeting
• Accountability for actions are agreed upon in the meeting (with follow up)
• Always maintain focus and do not get distracted.
You should also regularly review with your team the effectiveness of meetings and the value that they are creating for the organisation. And it is here that there is a very important point – you should only change your meeting approach if it creates more value for the team, rather than for individuals.
If you combine the skills of your team with better meeting techniques you will make better decisions and be better informed.