Making your meetings more effective

Making your meetings more effective

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better,” says Peter F. Drucker, an American management guru. He was right. Too many meetings will result in nothing productive being done. Research has shown that meetings are the third major time waster in the world of work. We spend as much as 40 percent to 50 percent of our working time in meetings, be they group meetings or one-on-one, face to face meetings.

The frightening thing is that at least 50 percent of the time spent in meetings is wasted – it is not productive at all. What a waste! Should we therefore get rid of meetings completely to save this precious commodity called time? Not at all. There are things we can do to redeem the wasted time.

Anyone intending to make his/her meetings effective and efficient should consider adopting some of the tips discussed below. Meetings should not be a dread where people will try to find every reason in the world not to attend. Instead we should make meetings so interesting that everyone will be energised to attend.

When organising a meeting make sure the objective is clear. You need to ask yourself what the purpose of the meeting is and what do you want to achieve at the end of the meeting. A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose. If you can’t define the purpose then it might be better not to call the meeting at all. You can achieve what you want probably through an email or other mode of communication.
You need to seriously consider who to invite to a meeting. Some people are called to meetings just to satisfy their egos although they might not really contribute anything to the meeting. Their presence might just be there for political reasons. Such people can be time wasters. You therefore need to be very careful as to who attends your meeting so that you quickly achieve the objective of the meeting. Usually meetings proceed at the speed of the slowest person in the room.

A meeting should have a very clear and timed agenda. Attendees need to know what they will be discussing and the people who will be making presentation and for how long those presentations will be. This removes rumbling in meetings and ensures people stick to the business of the day. Each agenda time should be allocated a certain amount of minutes depending on the criticality of the topic being discussed.

When you have created an agenda make sure everyone sticks to the schedule. Have the agenda in front of everyone and as the chairman remain focussed on the discussions in the agenda. Distractions and diversions will waste time.

Be in control of the discussions. Never let one person dominate the discussions otherwise this will spell disaster for the meeting because he/she will take a disproportionate time. If such a situation arises where someone dominates the meeting then you can tell that person that he/she has contributed enough and other members should contribute. Obviously you need to have established some ground rules earlier on which will inform the group how the meeting will be conducted.

There is no killer of time than not starting the meeting on time and ending on time. It’s very important to start a meeting on time, and end on time. You need to be ruthless on time management.
You should have a reputation of being someone who starts and ends meetings promptly. When you do that you are saying to your colleagues “I appreciate and I understand that your time is valuable.” People don’t have time to waste so don’t be that person who is killing their precious time. Time is money and wasted time can’t be recovered.
We are now leaving in a world of technology. Everyone has a smartphone and/or an Ipad. Communication is now easy.

The tendency now is that people are in constant communication on social media. You will see people responding to messages or chatting in meetings.
If people are allowed to bring smartphones or iPads into a meeting, they won’t be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it. It’s better to ban these gadgets in meetings if your meeting is to be productive, where everyone contributes.

Meeting deliberations should be recorded very accurately so that even after months one can follow the discussions that took place. The minutes of a meeting should be circulated within a few days after the meetings to allow for those assigned to do certain tasks to be able to do them. There should be follow up. The minutes should document the responsibilities given, the person responsible to carry out the tasks and any assigned deadlines.

There are suggestions of having stand-up meetings. The proponents of such meetings say that these meetings will reduce time wasting because people will be forced to make decisions fast. They can’t afford to be standing for a long time.
We can make meetings very interesting, valuable and productive. We just need follow these suggested steps.

About the author: Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations. For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062.

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