According to a 2015 OfficeTime survey, employees feel meetings rank second as the biggest “Top Time Killer.”
A 2015 Wrike.com survey indicates that 34% of workers attend six or more meetings a week. When asked whether meetings end with clear action items, nearly half indicated “some of the time,” “rarely,” or “never.” Ouch!
What can we do to make meetings more productive? Well, I have some thoughts.
I’ve been the President of the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) Seattle Area Chapter for four years. During that time, we’ve had a very consistent Board and held some pretty darn effective meetings. However, in a couple short months some of our long-time Board members will be stepping down (including myself) and new members will be taking our places. It is rewarding to see members of our Chapter volunteer for these critical positions, but it means change and change can sometimes be hard on group dynamics.
Along with the excitement of new members coming on, there is renewed focus on ensuring that our monthly Board meetings continue to be effective. The “old” Board knew each other well, the procedures were clear, we had a “flow,” and the meetings were predictable and efficient.
What makes our meeting so productive?
Our Board members respect each other. I also think they truly like each other, but even if they don’t, all Board members are treated respectfully by their peers.
Before: An efficient agenda and meeting flow.
- Agenda items: Board members are asked to submit agenda items well in advance and the agendas are distributed approximately two days prior to the meeting. Receiving the agenda prior to the meeting allows everyone to prepare for their own presentations and organize questions they may have about other agenda items.
- Logistics: Because our meetings are always held at the same location, a physical address is not necessary, but the agenda does include the date and time as not to confuse one meeting from the next. If meetings are not held at the same location consistently, a physical address and phone number for the facility would be helpful. It is also helpful to include meeting attendees, including titles if appropriate.
- Flow and timing: As a general rule, it is suggested that each person on the agenda be given a specific amount of time to present. Doing so keeps presentations from going on and on and on and on. Because our Board had such a great flow, we do not assign timing to the agenda. Some months Marketing needs more than Communications. Sometimes it’s the other way around. People respect and appreciate the flexibility. But, we are VERY careful to ensure our meetings stay to one hour or less, being respectful of the overall time commitment.
During: Respect the process.
- Be considerate of attendees’ time: Start and stop according to the agenda. If it appears the meeting will need to run over, ask attendees if the additional time will work with their other commitments. If not, table the additional discussion for another meeting.
- Follow the agenda as closely as possible. Attendees have made preparations according to the agenda.
- Prevent one topic from spilling over into another agenda item’s time without consensus.
- Address all agenda items. Only skip items with attendee consensus.
- No surprises. Attempt not add an agenda item that attendees have not prepared for.
- Encourage participation: Do not allow one attendee to monopolize the meeting. Encourage all members to participate, possibly calling on an attendee that would bring value, but may be hesitant to speak on their own.
After: Comprehensive minutes.
- Include an attendee list.
- Indicate accurate start/stop times.
- Create high-level documentation of agenda item discussions, including any procedural votes, decisions, updates, or further action that needs to be taken.
- Distribute meeting minutes in a timely fashion. Our current Secretary distributes the minutes within 48 hours of the meeting. Because the meeting details are still fresh in participant’s minds, the minutes are much more accurate.
Do your meetings look like this? What can you do to make your meetings more efficient?