Tired of wasting time in meetings? Then make meetings matter again! Get your team producing better results by following a shared set of rules designed to maximize your time together. You can apply these rules to “internal” meetings, like status calls, as well as external meetings, like sales calls, where every second counts!
Speaking of time
The longer a meeting goes with your colleagues, the less time you spend networking and selling. The more time you waste with a prospect, the less likely you can get to closing a deal. Sometimes, business cultures get so wrapped up in their own internal issues and expectations that meetings can end up feeling like grueling marathons full of digressive conversations. Yes, they’re essential, but sometimes, frustrating!
NEW RULE: NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO COME
Before you call a meeting, ask yourself if you really need as many people as you think to attend. Remember, everyone’s time, even in meetings, literally costs your company money. So, try a phone call, email, or instant message before you call a meeting. Your colleagues will appreciate your respect for their time and everyone’s productivity.
Speaking of calling a meeting, you can use shared calendaring in Outlook to see each other’s calendars. That transparency can help you avoid sending messages back and forth to coordinate good times for a conversation—saving you even more time.
NEW RULE: NO AGENDA, NO MEETING!
The first half an hour of meetings should not be spent debating its purpose. Try to set an agenda every time. Make sure you have clear and reasonable goals set for your meeting, like finding consensus on an issue or choosing a vendor for a project. A simple but effective way to implement this rule is by inserting your agenda right into your meeting invites. This way, you can also attach documents to the invite with the agenda.
NEW RULE: SHOW UP ON TIME!
Some business cultures seem to care less about when meetings start or end, especially “internal ones.” If you work at a place like that, just make a point of showing up on time. It demonstrates respect for your colleague who called the meeting. And you should expect your colleagues to do the same when you call a meeting, right?
NEW RULE: PHONES ON THE TABLE!
You can’t take phones or laptops away from people (at least, not without a struggle—ha!) but you can ask people to show the courtesy to put down their devices. You can lead by example, putting your phone down and not touching it during the meeting. You can put that device in airplane mode—or just leave it at your desk. At the very least, try not to use your phone gratuitously while someone speaks, which is rude.
NEW RULE: BRAINSTORM PROPERLY
If you routinely conduct brainstorming sessions (for strategic or creative purposes), then you know how easily they get derailed. What you may not know is that brainstorming is a detailed business technique, not just a verb, dating back to the 1950’s. Above all, carefully consider who you invite to participate. Naysayers and inherently skeptical people can ruin the broth, even with the best of intentions.
NEW RULE: MEDIATE THE MEETING
If you call a meeting, mediate it! You don’t need to be a professional facilitator to keep a conversation on track and people focused on your meeting agenda. Remember, if you call a meeting, you should take ownership of it!
NEW RULE: EVERY MEETING HAS A HARD STOP
Meetings should end—not just start—on time. Again, we go back to respecting everyone’s time. Be mindful of how long you ask for, as well. Try to keep your meetings short and sweet. You can always book more time together if you want to.
NEW RULE: NEXT STEPS ARE A MUST!
Whether you call them next steps, action items, tasks, responsibilities, whatever—the meeting organizer must make sure to follow up on every meeting with an email outlining what needs to be done coming out of the meeting. Who does what next? They must remind people of the meeting objectives and spell out the next steps. To save time, try using OneNote to take meeting notes and share next steps quickly.
NEW RULE: PEOPLE SHOULD WANT TO ATTEND
OK, that may be wishful thinking, but at least you can reward people for their time with a simple, but thoughtful gesture, like having some water bottles and snacks on hand. If you call a meeting at lunch hour, you may want to offer some sandwiches too. Ultimately, do what you can to contribute to a pleasant experience.
NEW RULE: DESKTOP SHARING IS REALLY COOL!
Speaking of good experiences, Skype for Business (an Office 365 service) can offer an excellent and cost-effective alternative to in-person meetings. With this business-class version of Skype, team members can hold unlimited video conferencing and/or voice calls, plus use instant messaging to connect. In fact, with Skype, presenters can conveniently share their desktops in real time with their audiences. Nice!
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