Seven Seriously Succinct Pointers to Avoid Holding a Bad Meeting.

By Robyn-Jay Bage

Bage sept.25A very good friend of mine hates administrators. I mean HATES. As you might imagine (based on my bio), over the years this has made for some very intense (and often intensely funny) conversations.

“Meetings” crown the top of a list of our most frequent discussions. In her esteemed opinion, meetings are usually a considerable waste of time and serve only as opportunities for managers to pretend they actually work for a living. (Remember, I said she hates managers.)

I wouldn’t go that far. However, if I am completely honest with myself I have to admit I’ve attended more than a few meetings—big and small—that should have been better, shorter or never have happened at all.

Fortunately, the Internet is filled with resources offering valuable information about how to hold a good meeting. I offer you an alternative view:

Robyn’s Seven Seriously Succinct Pointers to Avoid Holding a Bad Meeting.

#7 It’s not all about them. Try not to let your meeting get hijacked by one or a few people who seem to think the meeting is just for them. I recall one meeting where the facilitator became so caught up in conversations with two participants that she had her back to the rest of the attendees through most of the meeting.

#6 Time after time. If the meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that means 2 p.m. for everyone. Don’t waste the time of those who bothered to show up when asked. Start as scheduled and don’t revisit what you’ve already covered. Make appointments for another time to catch up with any latecomers.

#5 Flying “by the seat of your pants” is a recipe for airsickness. Come into your meeting with a specific agenda. Few things make a team more restless than watching you fly around trying to improvise. If you’re not fully prepared, cancel.

#4 Food, glorious food. If you anticipate your meeting to be longer than 90 minutes, provide light refreshments. Adult learners (and children, too) get hungry, thirsty and fidgety when expected to sit and pay attention for long periods. If your meeting is being held during a typical breakfast, lunch or dinner hour, have something more substantial than punch and cookies available even if you can’t provide a meal. For instance, yogurt, granola bars and fruit seem to keep people happy.

#3 Simon says what? Make sure the room’s setup ensures everyone can hear the speaker or meeting facilitator. I attended a meeting recently where half of the attendees could not hear the person speaking. They left after 20 minutes.

#2 Put your left leg in and take your left leg out… A business meeting is no place for the hokey pokey—at least under most circumstances. Make sure there is room, including chairs and table space, for everyone you’ve invited or required to attend.

And finally, the #1 way to avoid holding a bad meeting

If it works in a memo, write one. No one appreciates being “talked at.” If your agenda involves largely one-way communication, you can probably put it in a memo, post it to your portal or send around a companywide email. If there are actual tasks to be done, or decisions to be made, a meeting is the perfect venue.

What went wrong at the worst meeting you’ve ever attended? Curious minds (and aspiring Great Meeting Facilitators) want to know!

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