By Nicole Grimes, M. ED.
One of the worst things that we can do as a professional is waste other people’s time. In an Information Age where there are so many ways to communicate, how can you really maximize folks’ time by meeting only when necessary? Time is one of the few things that we can not buy or return. The quickest way to aggravate people and make them lose respect for your meetings is to play with their time. As I speak to people in various industries, one of the main complaints is the
How can I get my meetings more focused:
- Send a reminder at least 48 hours in advance – A common courtesy is to remind people via email (initially not a text) about the meeting. Honestly, people forget, and your meeting may not be the only thing on their plate. I also like to use mobile calendar reminders (iCAL, Google Calendar, etc.), that people can accept so that a personal reminder pops up on their phone. Yes, they should remember, but honestly, we all need a friendly reminder.
- Start on time – If your habit is to start late, people will play with you and your time. Aren’t you playing with theirs? It’s your meeting be on time for it. Nothing is worse than whipping into a meeting like a hurricane because you are late. The key is in the pre-planning. Either you or your team need to ensure that everything is in place to begin the meeting. This means, you arrive early enough to ensure these things occur:
- Breathe and get focused
- Set up the meeting space
- Lay out materials
- Address technological matters/concerns (setting up the projector, logging in, pulling up presentation)
- Greet guests
- Set a timer and a time limit – People have other obligations, even when they are at work. Respect others time by setting clear standards for the timeframe, in advance, and end accordingly. If you need to go over the set time, ask people if it is ok that you do so. Allow folks to give you permission to take their time. Don’t do it for them.
- Set the purpose – What is the purpose of this meeting? What do you hope the group will accomplish? What are the next steps? Who is responsible? Who will follow up? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered by the end of the meeting so that everyone starts and finishes on the same page. Folks get aggravated when they feel like there is no sense of purpose or productivity.
- Get organized – If you know people will need their laptop, tell them in advance. If you need copies, make them prior to the date of the meeting. You are the leader of the meeting so you set the tone.
- Eliminate Distractions – Unless it’s a Code Red, there is no need for you to check Facebook and excessively text during a meeting if you are the meeting host. Yes, you may use your phone to refer to notes, but let’s keep it real, the people outside of the meeting can wait unless there’s an emergency. When in a meeting, it is quite rude, as a participant, to display this behavior as well. Sidebar conversations are another form of distracting people from the focus of the meeting. If you engage in excessive sidebar conversation, then it will be seen as acceptable.
- Set the Norms – This is critical. Verbally establish the guidelines for working collaboratively, and for sharing conflicting viewpoints. People get caught up in “their feelings” and meetings tend to go left. If there are matters that need to be discussed that do not pertain to the topic, establish a time after the general business to address those in the appropriate setting. Meetings often get off-track due to the leader not possessing the skill set to address bad behavior. Anything goes when there is no protocol or procedure as to how business will be conducted under your leadership. As the facilitator, you are the leader. Handle your business accordingly.
- Be a Leader – Display the behavior that you want others to engage in. If you are rolling your eyes and recklessly talking to people who professionally question you, YOU will lose the respect of others. Find a way to control your personal behavior, and realize that you are being viewed by others on how to behave and engage with others. Before pointing the finger at others regarding WHY your meetings are not productive, take a look at yourself first. You set the tone.
- Follow Up – Capture important points, and send a follow-up email to all invited so that everyone is on the same page following the meeting. Be clear on the expectations for moving forward. Follow up is an area where most folks drop the ball. Assign tasks and set dates in the meeting, if possible, so that everyone is clear moving forward.
Continue to use these simple checkpoints to make your meetings matter. If you are receiving vibes that folks are tuning out, it is time to pull in a team to help you evaluate your processes.
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