If we were on Family Feud and the category was Things People Complain About at Work, I would be willing to wager a hefty amount that Meetings would take the top spot.
Just the word “meeting” can get people’s blood boiling and quickly raise the tension in a room.
Originally meant to indicate a gathering of people with a common goal, meetings have taken on a connotation that suggests large amounts of wasted time and little productivity.
The thing is, meetings will never go away. We live in a world that is more connected than ever, and collaboration is a critical component of most successful business operations.
What can be particularly frightening is when you are personally responsible for planning and directing the meeting. No one wants to be that guy who causes people to groan when they get his meeting invites, so here are some common missteps. Avoid these and you’ll be nicknamed the Master of Meetings.
1. There are No Defined Goals
If you don’t set the stage and give specifics about what you are trying to accomplish, you are already headed down a path to meeting implosion.
Start an effective meeting by stating your objectives to ensure everyone is on the same page about why you have gathered them. If you’ve really got it together, you can put the goals in your meeting invite so people show up ready to rock.
2. There is No Agenda
Have you ever been to a graduation ceremony, auction or other seemingly endless event and not been given a program to follow along? Frustrating, isn’t it?
Don’t let this happen in your meetings. An agenda allows people to stay focused rather than disengage, thinking about when they can get back to their own to-do list.
Agendas can also keep others from hijacking your meeting for their own needs. “Let’s stick to the agenda,” works best if there is, in fact, an agenda to stick to.
3. The Technology Doesn’t Work
With today’s highly mobile workforce, it’s more likely than not that someone or several people will be joining your meeting virtually.
I find it perplexing that we are currently living in the “Connected Age,” and yet with all the technological advancements we have achieved over the last decade, having an online meeting is still often a big pain in the backside.
People shouldn’t have to download software, remember and dial numbers and passcodes, log into online and audio, or do any of the various annoying and error-prone tasks required to join a conference call or web meeting.
It should be, and can be, simple. There are many available solutions that have simplified the process of joining and managing an online meeting.
Research them and get familiar with any technology you plan to use in order to significantly decrease the possibility of something going wrong.
4. There is No Opportunity for Interaction
Most people don’t enjoy simply being talked at, unless they have plans to zone out or covertly watch the basketball tournament from their tablet while you speak. It’s your meeting, so you need to lead it in a way that encourages engagement.
Ask questions, solicit input and assign responsibilities. You decided that a meeting of these particular people was necessary, so make sure that decision holds true.
If you are just presenting, then you likely could have sent a document. And don’t forget those folks who are joining from other offices or locations.
It’s difficult to be the person who isn’t in the room. Make sure your meeting tools have options for engaging in the conversation, like video chat and document sharing.
5. There is No Follow Up
So you avoided all the pitfalls above and had a super productive meeting that left everyone feeling inspired and enthusiastic when they returned to their work day. Don’t lose that momentum by failing to put ideas into action.
Provide attendees with a brief recap of the important points established and include action items with owners for any necessary next steps.
I don’t expect that the feelings of dread toward meetings will disappear overnight, but a little preparation can go a long way in terms of having coworkers leave your meetings feeling like they accomplished something. If all else fails, you can always hand out donuts.
(Photo by World Bank Photo Collection / CC BY)
I think you hit on all the main points, especially the difficulty with something that should be relatively easy: getting connected in the face of technology that doesn’t just work.