According to HR Grapevine, Direct Blinds carried out research which shows that just over 48% of UK employees feel anxious about meetings.
Most of us have had that sinking feeling as we have realised that today is THAT meeting.
People who ramble inconsequentially, lose their train of thought and then take a detour through the details.
People who grind axes.
The fault-finder who has nothing constructive to offer in place of others' ideas.
The one-hour meeting which takes two hours because the Chairperson cannot control the meeting.
The meeting from which no action points arise, leaving you no wiser than when you entered.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. Meetings can, and should, be an effective use of time. Here are some tips to make sure your meeting is not the one that your staff are dreading attending.
They don’t need to be called just because there is always a meeting on Thursday. They should have a clear aim and a purpose, and there should be a goal and a measurable outcome for each point on the agenda. And yes, there should be an agenda.
Suitable reasons for calling a meeting include:
Disseminate information to many people at once.
Review progress on a joint project
Plan tasks involving multiple teams
Consult staff or teams about an issue that will impact all of them.
Team building activities.
But wait! Before you call a meeting for information gathering purposes, is it necessary? Do you really need to have a meeting or would it be more appropriate to gain the information you need via a phone call or a quick face-to-face with one key member of each team? This is often quicker than playing email tennis to get a meeting into everyone's diary.
I really do need to hold a meeting.
The key to achieving a meeting that doesn't waste time is to invite only people who need to be there and to structure the agenda and attendance list intelligently.
If someone only needs to provide a small piece of information, could they brief another attendee who can then bring up that point on their behalf? This means only one person from that team needs to attend.
If an individual's viewpoint is only needed for one agenda item, why not structure the agenda so they only need to attend the first half of the meeting, pre-coffee break making it a more effective use of their time.
Please send around an agenda, so people know what is going to be discussed. Include supporting paperwork with the agenda. Generally, the more supporting paperwork you have, the earlier you should send out the agenda and meeting pack.
A good meeting requires well-prepared delegates. Sending the agenda and a forty-page discussion document one hour before the meeting is setting yourself up for an unproductive meeting.
Please be clear about how long the meeting will take and then stick to that timing. Many executives will be attending a number of meetings each day. If your meeting over-runs, this will either impact subsequent meetings (in which case you will probably have an annoyed administrator on your case), or the individual will need to leave early, possibly at a critical point in the discussion.
Don’t be tempted to allow “a bit of extra time in case things over-run”. If there is time to fill, it will get filled, but not usually efficiently.
It is up to the chairperson to move the discussion along at the right speed to ensure all items are discussed. If a discussion looks as though it is going to run and run, the chairperson should suggest that this is discussed in detail at another time by those who have the most involvement or scheduled for further discussion at a future meeting.
The chairperson should also shut down discussions which are becoming unproductive, heated or going around in circles.
At all times the Chairperson should be mindful of the aim of the meeting and ensure that all discussion contributes to that aim. If the discussion veers off into another area, it should be brought back to the matter at hand.
Any Other Business
The Any Other Business section of the agenda should be particularly tightly controlled to avoid it becoming longer than the main meeting. This tends to be the point in the meeting where the chairperson needs to be particularly ruthless in controlling the meeting.
Any Other Business is designed to cover relevant items which arose in the period between the agenda being sent out and the meeting happening. Its purpose is NOT to:
Raise grievances, frustrations or complaints
Raise a new and unrelated issue that suddenly occurred to you whilst you were looking out of the window
Raise irrelevant issues that don't contribute to the purpose of the meeting
Ambush the meeting with an idea that you have already been told cannot be progressed in the hope that raising it in front of higher management will somehow allow you to get the idea agreed.
Addressing the meeting.
If you are presenting to the meeting, keep it short and to the point. A short point, well presented will carry more authority. And if you don’t have anything useful to say… just keep quiet.
No acronyms unless you are certain everyone understands them fully.
If you feel the need to tell people that you are planning to pivot to allow your team to engage in some blue sky thinking whilst circling back to consider the unprecedented level of low-hanging fruit that you feel sure will be the new normal. Please. Just Don't. It doesn't mean anything, it wastes time, and it makes you look a bit silly.
There is a skill to taking the minutes of meetings and producing an accurate, detailed, but not rambling, record of the meeting.
Of key importance are the action points, which should be allocated accurately to the correct person. Agreed deadlines must be included.
The key points of the discussion should be recorded and the speaker accurately identified.
Minutes should be written up and issued promptly so that those with action points allocated can get started on dealing with the work quickly.
If you are running meetings and need someone with experience, speed and accuracy to take the minutes, then please get in touch to discuss your requirements.