One of the things that many people hate at work is having to attend many long meetings. Since nearly everyone does not like having many long meetings, it should ideally be easy to ban them!
But I bet we will still be subjected to having many big long meetings for the foreseeable future. We must, therefore, begin the journey towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the meetings that we attend.
This starts with the meeting chairperson. The chairperson of the meeting has the responsibility to ensure that meetings run smoothly, address all matters on agenda effectively and help the meeting attendants to arrive at some consensus. It, therefore, means that who and how many people you invite to the meeting are key drivers for the effectiveness and efficiency of the meetings. You need to invite the rightful people to the meeting so that you can achieve the goals of the meeting.
You need to fully understand the agenda of the meeting and then based on that, invite the appropriate representatives. Only invite the key people needed for the meeting. Having a long list of meeting attendants is the first step towards having a failed meeting. There is a general rule of thumb that only two levels of hierarchy should attend meetings.
Once you bring in the third and fourth levels and so on, then you are bringing unnecessary inefficiency. You can only bring in the extra layers of the organisation if the meeting is specifically an information dispatch meeting rather than a decision making meeting.
Alternatively, if you critically need some of the extra layers of the organisation, then bring them in only at the time when their respective matters are being discussed and release them soon afterwards.
Just recall the past meetings that you attended. Consider the meetings that had many people attending and from many vertical levels of the organisation. Compare with the meetings that had few people from say only two layers of the organisation. You will clearly see that the latter group of meetings were probably far more productive, efficient and effective.
The second key driver for achieving effective and efficient meetings is the agenda. You need a clear agenda that is communicated to all the meeting attendants well in advance so that they all come fully prepared.
Along with the agenda is the information behind the agenda. If there are reports to be presented at the meeting, it is important that such reports are shared with all meeting attendants ahead of the meeting. And the attendants need to read the reports before the meetings so that everyone comes to the meeting fully prepared and so that you do not waste time reading long reports. At the meeting, only summaries of the reports can be presented as a recap and to bring everyone to the same level.
The third key driver for ensuring that your meetings are efficient and effective is the role of the chairperson. The chairperson needs to be in control. He or she needs to be driving and guiding the meeting – bringing members back to the focus lines when they digress and directing the pace and direction of the meeting at all times.
A good chairperson is not simply a passenger. He or she is a driver of the meeting. A good Chair knows when to draw the line, when to call for the vote, when to summarise and which points to dwell on.
The meeting cannot spend a lot of time on all agenda items. Some of the items can be handled with speed while others need a bit more time. A good Chair will have the correct judgement to make that call.
The fourth feature of efficient and effective meetings is the length of the meeting. If you have a meeting that lasts five or seven hours, forget about effectiveness and efficiency. Long meetings quickly lose members.
Towards the end of long meetings, almost no one is listening to anyone. People also tend to forget nearly everything that was discussed in a long meeting unlike from a sharp, focussed and pointed meeting.
Good luck as you drive effective and efficient meetings! n