I don't know you but I know at least one thing that you and I share in common. We think we hate meetings. "I don't think I hate meetings, I know I do," you are almost certainly saying to yourself, but what you actually hate are poorly planned meetings that either drag on forever, involve unnecessary parties, don't accomplish anything, or all of the above.
Here are some hacks guaranteed to make meetings more tolerable at your company:
1) Send out an agenda along with the meeting request (Tweet This Hack)
Agendas are absolutely vital in coordinating an efficient meeting where goals are met and timelines are not exceeded. All good agendas should contain the following:
- Topics to be covered. This doesn't need to be an exhaustive description of each item, as you'll obviously be diving into the details during the meeting. A bulleted list of specific items to be covered will suffice in getting others to understand the purpose of them stepping away from their work. It should get participants to think about why they have to attend, but if it doesn't, at least it will give them the impression that you're not trying to waste everyone's time.
- Information or materials that each participant will need to bring to the meeting. Nothing is worse than getting all of that salary into a room just to waste everyone's time while one person tries to gather data on the fly or heads to the printer because they weren't prepared. This is completely avoidable by identifying everyone's mandatory preparation in advance.
- Meeting Objective. Though you think the goals seem obvious to everyone or you believe the title of the meeting contains sufficient enough detail, you may be surprised to learn that most people don't know what you're trying to get out of the discussion. Setting a goal such as "creating a prioritized list of five ways to grow the number of our email registrations," can make your meetings so much smoother. Everyone knows why they are there and can help steer the conversation so the goal is met. If the discussion strays off topic anyone can point to the meeting goal and say "we are getting off topic; let's save this for another discussion." Once your objective is met, the meeting can end. Often times this is way earlier than expected; a pleasant surprise for all.
2) Change Google Calendar's default meeting length (Tweet This Hack)
Here's a simple little hack that can save you boat-loads of time. Go to your Google Calendar settings page. Within the "Default meeting length" option, you can shorten the length of time that appears by default as you create a new meeting. This will save you time if you find yourself setting a lot of 15 minute meetings and adjusting the times for each instance. Here you'll also find a neat little feature called 'Speedy meetings' which sets 30 minute meetings to end 5 minutes early and 1 hour meetings to end 10 minutes early.
I'm not sure if Outlook has a feature like this, but as a bonus protip I'd advise dropping that bloated piece of complicated software effective immediately. Once you get over the initial shock of change, your life will make a lot more sense.
3) Declare your meeting a laptop or device free zone (Tweet This Hack)
There are so many distractions in the modern workplace and it's almost a guarantee that the person who brings in their machine, tablet, or phone will stop paying attention to the discussion early on. At this point it can be hard to reel them back in. Unless a machine is necessary for the discussion, try telling people to leave their equipment at their desks. By banning devices, you're making a statement that you value everyone's time and contribution. If other work is so urgent that someone has to bring their device to the conference room, they shouldn't be in that meeting to begin with.
4) Use a Datexx Miracle Cube Timer to keep the meeting to promised time ceilings (Tweet This Hack)
We all know discussions can extend way longer than anticipated and this simple little device which can be bought for $17 on Amazon.com works wonders in forcing people to adhere to a schedule. Simply flip the cube to the side which represents the amount of time you want to spend on a subject and when it beeps, time is up. Nobody wants to be the person who has to flip the cube over again in order to continue dragging on a conversation. Bring one of these to your next meeting and revel in the power of the cube!
Needlessly to say, there are many other ways to make your meetings more effective and on point; invite only those who can & will participate, always start your meetings exactly on time, don't double-book rooms, exit with a plan, email a post-meeting summary of the discussion, etc. If you begin today by applying the above four hacks not only will you find that people stop hating meetings as much, but your colleagues may actually think you know what you are doing. A professional twofer!