I loved the BBC mockumentary TV series “W1A”.
I found the often baffling comments simply hilarious.
People speaking to fill the space.
“Yes no very good…”
“Let’s not bore the ocean here guys.”
The point is, we’ve all been there, on a zoom call, we need to get on with our day or maybe if we’re lucky, wrap up work for the day! But the clock is ticking and there’s no end in sight.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to gain clear outcomes AND finish meetings on time once you know how to prepare and you ask the right questions.
10 ways to keep meetings productive and short…
- Make sure you schedule the meeting for the right amount of time – no more, no less.
If it’s a relatively short exception meeting to update on progress (say 15 minutes) why not have attendees stand up… yes even on a zoom call! This will keep everyone focused, and the meeting is more likely to finish on time as attendees don’t want to stand around too long.
For longer meetings, evaluate how long each agenda item needs, so that you don’t waste time and can keep the meeting moving.
- Circulate an agenda with item timings ahead of the meeting.
Include any reading materials so everyone can be up to speed when the meeting starts and add ‘Agree actions’ and ‘Date for next meeting’ as closing items. Think carefully whether or not to include ‘Any other business.’
- Send a link and reminder to attendees so they’re clear about the start time.
With busy schedules, gentle reminders go a long way.
- Make it clear to attendees that the meeting will start and finish on time.
I’ve been in too many meetings where people have arrived late. We all know how incredibly disruptive this can be and often leads to everyone having to listen to a recap of what that person has missed.
Start on time, even if not everyone has arrived and if the meeting looks like it is going to over-run, finish at the expected time. If attendees think the start / finish times are flexible, what incentive is there to arrive and / or leave on time?
Set clear expectations ahead of the meeting, be consistent and stick to them.
- Make it clear to attendees that mobile devices are to be silenced.
What, I can’t do that! I admit, this tip is probably the hardest to achieve, but I’ve sat in many meetings where attendees get distracted by devices that quite frankly they may as well not be there.
This tip will help everyone to focus on the here and now, reach the desired outcomes more quickly and finish on time.
As the end of the meeting approaches:
- Set a discrete reminder 10 minutes before the end of the meeting.
You’ve already established a mindset that your meetings will finish on time. Your leadership shows that your time and that of attendees is important. By setting a discrete reminder, you’ll know when it’s time to start wrapping things up.
- I love the phrase “I’m conscious of time.” This draws attention to everyone’s schedule and serves as a reminder to focus on the outcomes of the meeting.
- Agree actions
This gains clarity of the meeting outcomes and makes sure attendees know what action points they need to implement and by when. Once agreed, establish who needs to know and / or be involved with a deadline. This will give action clarity and implementation accountability.
- “Great, we’ve got a plan of action, know who is going to do what and by when.
Let’s book our next meeting while we’re all together.”
Time can be saved arranging the next while everyone is together and a simple link & reminder can be sent as in point 3 above.
- Beware the AOB agenda item
I mentioned thinking carefully whether or not to include ‘Any other business’ earlier. Take care to manage potential meeting hijackers or you could be there all night!
Finally, what’s your favourite way to spend your time? I ask this because when the meeting has finished, it’s time to move on. Your time is too precious to hang around.
More productive time in meetings = more time to do the things you want!
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