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Meetings Matter: Stop the Time Suckers

By Guest Blogger Michael Harrison

Within 10 minutes, I can tell whether a business meeting is going to be productive or a waste of time. I sit through a lot of meetings each year and I know good from bad, effective from time waster, productive from DOA. I’m a “meeting” expert. I’ve been to enough of them to qualify for that expert status.

Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters during the business day. You have your A-Team around the table, and productivity on the work floor drops as some manager talks about quarterly numbers while you wonder why you’re even there!

A business associate of mine was asked by a client to attend a meeting to gather opinions on the physical shape of the client’s new product, launching soon. So, he offered his opinion, honestly explained it was an uninformed opinion, and all the way home wondered why it was necessary for him to be there since he had nothing to do with what the product would look like.

Sure, inter-office communication is essential to smooth work flow, but do you really need a meeting – a big deal that, instead, could be communicated in five minutes in the hallway if you explain the situation to the right team member?

Meetings take time to prepare, they usually involve open-ended debate, and I’ve seen this so many times: meetings that simply “stir the pot” and make things even more confusing. Yes, poorly-planned business meetings can be project killers.

Here’s how to make the most of meetings and get back to work.

One person runs the show and it may not be you. If the meeting is about financials, let the company CFO run things while you take notes.

If the accountant misses a key point, add it to your conclusion as you close the meeting and get back to work.

Create an agenda and stick to it. Here’s what we talk about. That’s it. If other topics arise, shut them down. “Yes, thank you for your thoughts but we’re trying to land this new client here.”

Cut the meeting agenda. It happens all the time. Too many topics in too short a time. Go over your talking points, delete as many as you can, and save them for next week’s meeting, or better yet, send an email to all stakeholders.

Time meetings. If an office meeting is scheduled from 1:00 to 2:00, cut it in half. If you and your team are focused and prepped, you can get a lot done in 30 minutes, and get everybody back to work.

Skip the refreshments, skip the jokes, skip the side bars with a single attendee while the rest of the C-suite sits there wasting time.

Set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer rings, the meeting is over.

Manage the managers. A lot of management believe that if they don’t contribute they aren’t doing their jobs. Change this aspect of corporate culture. If you can’t make “it” better, don’t waste valuable meeting time. Tick, tock.

Eliminate all distractions. Pull the drapes. Hang the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the conference room door. All digital devices off; all eyes on the meeting’s manager – you, or some other critical staffer who needs to explain new regulations or procedures ASAP. Again, no coffee. No scones. Just the facts, projected outcomes, and time table.

Meeting adjourned.

Cut the number of meetings you have. An email, a link, a folder, the latest projections, downstream logjams – you can identify problems and provide a solution with no meeting at all. Just send an email to the teammate tasked with fixing “it” whatever “it” is.

Also, only meet with people who belong there. Don’t call in the entire top-tier management team for a marketing roll-out. Just the marketing and promotion department.

Find a more efficient way to solve the problem. It’s your business, so chances are, it’s your problem. Hiring a new employee is expensive. Consider a more efficient way to handle the work load – outsource. You only pay for work done, and you save the expense of recruiting a new hire.

Today’s Internet delivers solutions to business challenges. You just have to know where to look.

You may hurt some feelings, but explain to managers the purpose of meetings, and how you want them run.

Short and sweet. And done.

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