Meetings can be a massive time waster if not done right. But if handled correctly and used for the appropriate reasons, they can be the most effective way to organize the communication in your team.
Meetings are ineffective for a few reasons – When there are too many meetings each week; when there are unclear objectives; or when everyone is talking about theories and ideas and it never gets down to action steps.
Meetings can be very effective when a one hour meeting once a week replaces a whole lot of little conversations in the corridor and dozens of back and forth emails.
Clearly separate ideas and brainstorming from the rest of the meeting
A group brainstorming exercise to come up with lots of ideas can be very effective, but it's important to label it as such. Make sure everyone is clear the focus now is to brainstorm and come up with ideas. No idea is wrong, or should be criticized. Instead, everyone should just come up with lots of different ideas.
After finishing the brainstorming, you distinguish the good ideas from the bad. Clarify your objectives and figure out which ideas are going to fulfill on those objectives.
Lastly, agree on action steps and who will implement each action and write this down.
Here are some ideas for speeding up your meetings and making them more effective:
- Start meetings exactly on time and finish them on time (or earlier). Set a definite time limit for the meeting and stick to it.
- Determine an objective or series of objectives for the meeting, put them in writing and make it a clear focus for the meeting.
- Set an agenda, making sure that your agenda is clearly focused on the objectives of the meeting.
- At the end of the meeting, list all of the actions the participants are going to take and who is responsible.
- Don't have too many people in the meeting. Only the people who are necessary. Too many people and you're headed away from group-think and into group-brainlessness.
- Experiment with using tools like wiki spaces for everyone to contribute their ideas before the meeting starts. Then one person can organize what everyone has written into an agenda. Google documents are a simple way to do this.
- As part of this process, make sure everyone gets into the habit of noting down what they would like to cover in the meeting in the week prior., So, instead of rushing to their colleagues to discuss every new idea they have, they write down all the ideas before-hand.