Dear fellow meeting hater,
Let’s be honest. Is there anyone here who doesn’t hate meetings? At least to some extent? Don’t worry, we’re not judgmental. Personally, I am a meetings-hater. Yes, I hate meetings. There. I said it. And as it turns out, I find that it’s quite trendy to be a meetings-hater nowadays. But at the same time, having way too many meetings is still considered a sign of being important, in a very weird way.
Here’s a familiar scenario for all of us: You receive an email with the invitation to a meeting. No subject, no description. You don’t know why you are invited to participate, what is the meeting agenda or the goal of the meeting. But the funny thing is that, eventually, you always accept. It is kind of automatic action – “accept”. And then you look at your calendar and, magically, you have three or four meetings that same day. And then you look at the other days of the week. Same story. And then you look at your to-do list, at your personal planning, and then you wonder when you will have time to go on with your own work, besides all those meetings.
That is why I hate meetings.
After reflecting on this personal experience (that I am pretty sure could be considered a universal experience), I decided that this madness needed to stop. I am fed up, overwhelmed. I have to do something. And just by reading some research (which I really like to do), I found that according to many studies, meetings occupy 15% or even 37% of professionals’ time at work. Moreover, CEOs spend 85% of their time meeting or working with others. That’s crazy! Now, I am not a CEO myself, but I can imagine that if I – in my humble position – am already overwhelmed, a CEO must definitely be on the verge of going crazy.
So, this personal introduction is aimed to make you feel comfortable with saying “stop, time-out”. You deserve it.
Meetings are fundamental for the life of an organization, we all know that. You have meetings to collaborate, take decisions, brainstorming, prototype, problem-solving, discuss progress and so on. But we cannot allow meetings to run our working day and professional lives. We are so used to be meetings-dependent that we could not even imagine our day without meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic power to free you from meetings. But, what we all could do is learning how to have smarter (and fewer) meetings. I wrote down a couple of guidelines and steps for you to start your path towards salvation.
Step 1: Decide if this meeting is necessary
Try to identify and distinguish the different types of meetings that take place in your organization. Your objective is to specifically detect those meetings that are a waste of time (for you and your organization). These typically are:
- Poorly designed: no description, no agenda, no goals.
- Poorly facilitated: no pre-meeting preparation.
- Poorly attended: right people are not in the meeting, or those that are attending aren’t paying sufficient attention;
- Poorly concluded: the goals of the meetings were not reached; the session has not been recorded; no notes taken or shared; there is no follow-up.
Step 2: Make meetings more effective
After having recognised the unnecessary meetings (and have deleted them from your agenda), you should better focus on improving the effectiveness of the meetings you really need to attend. Six ingredients are necessary – at least:
- A clear and actionable agenda;
- Investment in pre-meeting preparation;
- The right people attending and participating;
- A good meeting process (including facilitation);
- Capturing of accurate meeting notes or task assignments;
- Timely post-meeting follow-up.
Step 3: Use technology that actually helps
To make your meetings more effective, you can apply the rules stated above. But if you want to do it even smarter, then technology is here to help. Office 365 offers Microsoft Teams for this purpose, for example. This tool allows you to improve the quality of your meetings in many ways;
- Reduce the number of face to face meetings. If your team members are dislocated, no need to make them travel miles to meet up altogether. Online (remote) meetings are perfectly fine! The audio and video quality are very good and you can invite as many participants as you want (inside and outside your organization).
- You can set a meeting agenda. This will appear on the event when your participants will receive the invitation and will be always visible on their calendar.
- You can easily record the meeting you are having with your team and include meeting notes in OneNote or other meeting material in the same place. This means no need to send out every time hundreds of emails with the PowerPoint you used or the notes/feedback you took. Everything will stay in the same team or channel on Microsoft Teams. If somebody needs that material, they can just look it up themselves in the files of the team.
- Join your meetings everywhere, with every device. Normally you join a meeting in person. But with no need to travel, you could also join remotely with your laptop and Microsoft Teams. But what if you are stuck in the train with no wi-fi? No problem! With the Microsoft Teams mobile app, you could also join the meeting with your phone while commuting (with the same functionalities of your laptop).
This is just a short list of the multiple things you could do with Microsoft Teams to make your meetings more effective. For a real-life example about how you could apply Microsoft Teams in your organizational meetings, read the blog Sales meetings with Microsoft Teams and OneNote.
Step 4: If you’re a manager, improve your meeting skills
Managers should improve their skills in scheduling, chairing and performing meetings. The basics are: knowing when to call meetings, how to prepare an agenda, how to encourage participation and how to manage cultural differences and resolve the conflict. Apart from the basics, there are other main rules:
- Plan the meeting in advance. Plan the meeting and create an agenda with the topics to address, the documents and files necessary to be attached to the agenda, plan the time you need to extensively discuss a topic, without exceeding the maximum time for tolerance.
- Establish ground rules. Define rules and roles in your organization’s meetings. Everyone has to know how to behave and what to expect from a meeting.
- Ask for feedback.at the end of every session, it is good to spare some time for feedback on the efficiency of the meeting, in the participant’s perception. To increase the effectiveness of a meeting, attendees should periodically critique it for what can be improved.
- Change your meeting culture step by step. Major improvements do not occur overnight but gradually — one meeting at a time. Start by improving just one meeting per week. This can to significant benefits for the organization while also contributing to the motivation of employees with the aim to make every meeting productive in the future.
That sounds like things we could start doing, right? It’s all about taking small steps. Sure, technology can help to improve the quality (and quantity) of your meetings, but you need to learn the basic rules of having smarter meetings first. It takes time, dedication and way more than what’s listed above, but you’ll have to start somewhere. Why not start with things we can control?
By having more productive meetings, you will certainly reduce the number of unnecessary sessions on your agenda, reach better your goals and…maybe you could even learn to love your meetings!
Stay tuned for more content on how to transform your Meeting Madness into Meeting Effectiveness.