Many entrepreneurs believe that meetings are a waste of time, given the wide range of means of communication offered by modern technologies. It is true that video calls and emails greatly facilitate communication, but nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting when ideas are brought together and issues are discussed over the relevant documents.
However, it is equally true that meetings can take up a lot of unnecessary time if they are not planned and conducted carefully. There is an art in planning meetings and making sure that everyone shows up on time and stays focused on the subject matter. There is no secret formula to make you a master meeting planner, but with discipline and a few useful tips you will soon learn how to get things done and not waste unnecessary time.
Here are a few useful ideas to help you organise and run effective meetings:
1. Summon Only the Necessary Persons
The most effective meetings are those which are held in a small circle of people. The ideal number of people attending a meeting is around 7 or 8. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to speak and share their ideas within the span of one hour (the usual duration of a meeting).
Large meetings, involving lots of people and covering a lot of topics, are not very effective. It is more beneficial to everyone to host several meetings, each focusing on a few topics, and inviting only those directly involved in the respective issues.
2. Make Meetings Device-Free Environments
One of the ways in which time is wasted without noticing is having your smartphone by your side all the time. You are tempted to check every new notification, email and text message. It takes just one moment to do it, but you lose minutes trying to focus back on what you were doing.
One of the simplest ways to make meetings more effective is to ask everyone to turn off their smartphones during the meeting. In this way, people will be able to focus on the discussions, come up with creative ideas and wrap up the meeting in a shorter time.
3. Distribute the Meeting Agenda Ahead of Time
When people do not have a clear schedule of the meeting, the first part of the meeting will be spent shuffling papers, trying to understand when everyone is supposed to speak and how much time each speaker is allotted. Emailing the meeting agenda to all participants at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting will give them sufficient time to understand what topics will be covered, what documents they are supposed to bring with them and what questions they may have to answer.
4. Follow up Meetings with an Email
Each meeting must have an end purpose: making changes within the business, implementing a new work system, delegating responsibilities, and so on. One of the surefire ways of wasting time is calling up another meeting to see how these decisions were implemented. People will feel frustrated, because they could have simply sent in an email detailing the way they started acting on the decisions taken on the previous meeting.
This is one of those moments when using email and other remote means of communication are justified as a replacement for a face-to-face meeting.
5. Take Your Meetings Outside the Office
Unless you need to make a presentation on a projector or laptop, or look over important documents, there is no reason why everyone should be cooped up inside an office. You should host the meeting at your favourite cafeteria and discuss the issues in an informal and relaxed environment, which encourages open conversation and the sharing of ideas.
In this way, your meeting will be effective and cover all the important topics in a short span of time… unless you decide to enjoy a delicious meal after the meeting is over!
In these simple ways, you can keep your meetings short and effective – eliminating distractions, confusion and other time-consuming issues.