First, just to be clear, this isn’t about beer, it’s about running your business meetings more efficiently so you can get on with actual work. Don’t get me wrong, meetings have a function in business, but most would agree that too many minutes of a day are wasted sitting in a room or on the phone addressing things that might be better handled in a less obtrusive way. Ever hear of the “Meeting Cow?” If not, get yourself a copy of the book Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers by Robert Kriegal and David Brandt. You’ll quickly understand why some really want to sit in meetings, while the rest of us don’t.
Be Prepared: It seems a simple enough concept, but how many times have you arrived at a meeting only to find no agenda and no expected timeframe for completion? Don’t let this be you; instead, be proactive and prepare an outline of questions that will be addressed to each person, so participants come prepared with answers. Also, you should have a timeline and agenda mapped out so people are aware ahead of time how much time they’ll get to present their portion. A simple outline could be:
- what project(s) are you working on now?
- what obstacles have you encountered?
- is there anything you need to help with your progress?
- any key items you need to share?
Be Concise: Implement brevity and concision in your meetings and you’re showing respect for all involved, plus maintaining control and not allowing your meeting to get hijacked. You will also cut down on interruptions, idle chit-chat, and let everyone have their turn on the floor.
Take Notes: If it’s not you, someone needs to take thorough notes and be charged with providing them post-meeting to all who need them, both attendees and people who couldn’t attend. There are two reasons to do this; one, for your “avid” note-takers, it frees them to listen instead of jotting things and missing something, and two, it reminds people of all contributions during the meeting.
Keep On Task: Nothing makes attendees lose interest faster than a rambling speaker with an aimless point to be made. If need be (and so they keep to the topic at hand) keep a timer or clock handy so people aren’t tempted to go off on a tangent. Remember though, the rules apply to everyone, so honor what you devise.
Whenever possible, use email, IM, and other electronic means to get as much done before the meeting as possible. Some companies do this using an internal Wiki, others use their Intranet, or even a spreadsheet they kick around, but whatever method you choose, the point is to cutdown the amount of time spent in meetings so you and your team are focused on getting work done, not just talking about getting work done. If you need a meeting agenda, you can download this one free.