A meeting must be an active session in which attendees learn, decide, and create things. An effective meeting is not just a discussion, it is a call for an action.
If you are a team lead, a project manager, or simply a facilitator of the meeting, you must first understand the above ground rule. But we all have gone through the boring experiences at our meetings. Most of the meetings kill our productivity. In my previous article, I discuss a lot about the preparation for an effective meeting: Meetings: Arranging A Highly Effective Meeting. In this article, let’s get into the depth of the topic and understand how to overcome the productivity killers at the meetings. These are my suggestions with my own experiences. If you have gone through different experiences, I would love to hear them in the comment section.
Suggested Solutions to Defeat Productivity Killers at the Meetings
|Off-topic discussions||Use the “Parking Lot” method.|
With this method, you are going to “park” the ideas going beyond the scope of your meeting. Later you can come back to handle them appropriately. The “parking lot” can be a notepad, a whiteboard, a shared online doc, or a sticky note board on the wall. You can take few topics from the parking lot and discuss at the end, schedule a new meeting to discuss further, or simply ignore these. Parking lot approach helps us stay focused on the current topic.
|Lengthy explanations||Use the “Parking Lot” method.|
With this method, you are going to “park” the discussions consuming more time. Later you can come back to handle them appropriately. The “parking lot” can be a notepad, a whiteboard, a shared online doc, or a sticky note board on the wall. You can take few topics from the parking lot and discuss at the end, schedule a new meeting to discuss further, or simply ignore these. Parking lot approach helps us stay focused on the current topic.
Having buffer time.
You can try this if it is difficult for you to decide on a time slot for a certain topic. In my personal view, I do not see the buffer time approach as a good practice. Instead, you may use the “parking lot” approach as much as possible and avoid buffer time.
Use a framework for presentation of content.
If the speaker can divide his explanation into small sections and sub topics, and go through one by one, he can manage his time efficiently. Also when time does not permit, he can skip small points. This approach is more understandable and flexible.
e.g. :- problem > causes > possible solutions > cost over benefit > recommendation.
|Serious decision making for long run||Prewire the important points.|
You can discuss the important points with the attendees and the relevant personnel before the meeting, individually or collectively. Having a ready-made understanding of serious situations will provide a right direction to the meeting, increase the chances of success in decision-making, and avoid potential disappointments and misunderstandings.
|Attention seekers||Use a framework for presentation of ideas.|
Attention seekers are very common at our workplaces. The best way to handle them is, constructively filtering their ideas and choosing the best. First, we must avoid the freedom for attendees to throw their ideas vaguely. When an attendee shares an idea, it must be constructive, supported by evidence and facts, and need to have a proper feasibility analysis (it’s always better to have an action plan as well). One does not easily share vague ideas when he has to satisfy the above prerequisites to share an idea. Also, the ideas which satisfy the above prerequisites are very meaningful and doable.
Define ground rules.
Inform your attendees the effective way of sharing an idea. Encourage them to come up with constructive idea sharing. Don’t let the conversations be too vague. Also, assign authority to someone to take actions for sharing of new ideas (to decide either to continue or reject). Attendees must listen and respect to the authorised person’s final decision.
|Poor attendance||Send a proxy.|
When someone cannot attend the meeting, the recommended practice is, asking him to send another person (proxy) from his team to represent the function and delegate the absentee’s role to him at the meeting.
If the absentee does not have such team to send a proxy, you will have to go for an alternative solution like videoconferencing.
|Lose of focus||Avoid multitasking. |
Strictly ask your attendees to stop all other work when someone is speaking at the meeting. Also it is better if the attendees can come to the meeting room with only a notepad and a pen, in addition to the meeting-related documents. (No mobile phones, no laptops, no other files)
Address topic by topic.
I have seen people sharing the functional updates first and then recall the previously-shared updates again and again when it’s time to discuss his topic. This is actually an outdated and less effective approach. What is the purpose of throwing so much of information to the table at the beginning and wait till the right time comes to discuss them? The best moment to share the updates is right before the topic. Then you can refer to the updates easily. Also it will give a better image of the situation to your other attendees. Always address topic by topic.
Make the introduction and updates short and sweet.
Longer introductions and updates can kill the productivity at the very beginning of your meeting. Don’t ever let it happen.
|Brainstorming||No brainstorming at the meeting, do it at home. |
People can work together as a group; but brains cannot. Brainstorming is a homework. People can work together as a group, but their brains work alone. Ask your attendees to brainstorm later and come up with a solution at the next meeting. Don’t lose your focus on the pre-defined objectives of the meeting.