I’ve never heard a professional say that they honestly, genuinely enjoy meetings. In fact, you’re much more likely to hear the opposite. Meetings take valuable time that could otherwise be spent on important tasks or projects and aren’t always very fruitful. Some managers seem to love scheduling meetings to talk about projects or the next sprint, and while they may be a necessary evil in most company cultures, they certainly don’t have to be excruciating.
So, how can managers and employees have productive, pleasant (or at least less painful) meetings?
#1 Ask if the meeting is necessary
Asking a manager flat out if they’re planning on wasting your time isn’t a smart way to go about it--but if you’re getting ready to schedule a meeting with your co-workers, you may want to sit back and ask yourself if a meeting is really necessary. Could the same goals be accomplished by stopping at someone’s desk for a quick chat? Maybe an email blast where co-workers can respond in their own time?
Some company cultures are even guilty of equating an employee’s worth with how many meetings they’re attending on any given day. If your calendar isn’t booked to the brim with meetings, you must not be working hard enough, right?
Wrong. Don’t be afraid to cancel meetings if the goal has already been accomplished or if you think it would be unproductive. No one likes having their time wasted.
#2 Stick to the schedule and don’t get sidetracked
The fastest way to make an hour meeting last for two or more hours is to get sidetracked. If you’re attending or leading a meeting that’s for a very specific purpose, do not stray from that purpose. If there are side questions or details that need to be worked out, don’t be afraid to catch up with someone after the meeting is over; there’s no reason to involve every attendee in drawn out discussion.
If you’re running the meeting, be sure to create and maintain a list of priorities so that there’s no room to get distracted. Work through the items one by one in a timely manner to make meetings productive.
#3 Take notes and send out a follow-up email if necessary
One of the most irritating aspects of a meeting is having a co-worker who doesn’t take notes. There’s now a greatly increased chance that the co-worker will ask you for the same information a second time, which means more time spent going over the same topic twice. If you’re afraid co-workers won’t take notes, prepare a one-sheet beforehand to hand out. This will also give attendees a way to follow along with you as you move through your prioritized list.
If you’re attending a meeting, don’t be the co-worker who doesn’t take notes. Even if you’re taking notes through an app like Evernote, walking away empty-handed is never a good idea.
Whether leading or attending, sometimes a follow-up email is a good idea. This allows co-workers the chance to go over any additional information you collected during the presentation, or provide feedback on the topics discussed without taking up precious time. Co-workers generally feel more at ease when answering emails in their own time.
In conclusion, meetings don’t have to be a time-consuming annoyance in your office. By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that scheduled meetings are both purposeful and productive.