(since we can’t get rid of them altogether)
If you feel a chill of dread at the prospect of leading or participating in a meeting, you are not alone. 71% of managers say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Studies show that the more meetings we attend, the worse we feel about ourselves and our jobs. And yet between 36 and 56 million meetings occur in the US every day (see citations for these studies at end of post).
Prevent “Meetings to Meet”
First, you must ask “WHO really needs to participate in this meeting?” Shun collaboration for collaboration’s sake. Make sure that those who participate in meetings are the ones who can get things done.
1. Prepare, Then Participate Early
If you are leading the meeting, send out an outcome-focused agenda within a week of the meeting. If your role is meeting member, read the agenda carefully. Plot the best moment for your contribution. Converse with key players before you get into the room. Speak as early as possible once the meeting begins.
2. Prevent the Tyranny of the Most Verbose
Those who speak most forcefully often dictate what happens in a meeting. Many of us find that speaking up can be nerve-racking in an environment like this. To make it easier to jump in, be sure to express confidence through your body language and word choice.
Sit toward the front of your seat and do not lean back. Consider ditching your laptop; it can set up a barrier between you and everyone else. Speak up, be factual and clear, and avoid deferential language and filler words such as “I think”, “maybe”, etc.
3. Embrace the Uncomfortable
Groups are more creative and productive when differences are aired. Take the risk to identify “the elephant in the room”. Remember, if something does not feel right to you, odds are it is not just you. Enormous time and energy is wasted when meeting members try to ignore uncomfortable issues.
Meetings should be action sessions. At their best, meetings solve problems and set direction. Let’s all take the steps above, and make this commitment: Fewer, more productive meetings!