At on time or another we have all been unfortunate enough to sit through a bad meeting and experienced the following traps. Follow the guide below to avoid them in the future and ensure you have effective meetings.
Trap 1 – Believing that meetings are easy to run.
Most people believe that they know how to run a meeting. But in reality all they do is have a gathering of invited guests for which they provide tea, coffee and biscuits. They then allow their guests to have unstructured conversations that do not lead to any agreements or actions. On the odd occasion that they do reach an agreement it is never implemented.
What to do: If you are going to chair a meeting, ensure you know how to do it properly, attend a workshop, read a book or speak to someone who you consider to be an expert in the running of meetings. If the results of a meeting really matter, consider bringing in a third party to act as a facilitator.
Trap 2 – Failing to understand that you are not as inspiring as you think.
Many people try to impress others by making long-winded announcements, but in reality it has the opposite effect. A long-winded announcement can get boring very quickly because if given the chance most employees want to actively contribute to the business, and listening to a speech feels like a waste of their valuable time.
What to do: Ensure that meeting attendees have the opportunity to contribute. Plan open questions that direct attendees thinking toward the results that you want. Inform employees of announcements by letter or E-mail. If you must use make an announcement in a meeting keep it short and sweet (less than a few minutes).
Trap 3 – Automatically assuming that others agree with you.
A lot of people rely on non-verbal communication such as nods, smiles, and eye contact to reassure themselves that their audience is in agreement with what they are saying. This assumed acceptance is then proved to be wrong when at the end of the meeting, attendees then promptly forget the lecture, ignore the message, or sabotage the idea completely.
What to do: If you want people to accept your ideas you must get their buy-in. Give them the opportunity to ask questions, run meetings in a way that is considered fair by everyone. Use consensus to make decisions and get agreement. People will only accept decisions that they feel they have helped to make.
Trap 4 – Thinking all meeting attendees are clairvoyants.
Many people call meetings and do not provide attendees with an agenda and expect that everyone will arrive knowing exactly what needs to be discussed. What really happens is that everyone arrives with their own agenda and idea of what needs to be achieved. Without a clear agenda, the end result will be confusion and chaos, with no results or agreed actions. Always remember that a vague agenda is as useless as no agenda.
What to do: Be sure of the meeting objective and write it down. Then prepare your agenda to achieve your objective. A good agenda should allow someone else to run the meeting in your place, should you be delayed or not able to attend at the last minute. Specify each agenda item and note down what is required, is it for information, is a decision required or is it for discussion? provide a time frame for each item. Send the agenda out in advance of the meeting to allow attendees time to prepare.
Trap 5 – Assuming that a meeting is always the answer.
Do you know people who call a meeting to deal with situation, whether it is an emergency, surprise, or itch? A meeting is an expensive process and should only be used only to obtain results that require the efforts of a group of people working as a team. A meeting is not a remedy for everything. When a meeting is called for the wrong reasons, everyone considers it a waste of time.
What to do: Always make sure the value of the results you gain from a meeting will be greater than the cost of holding the meeting in the first place. There may well be other activities that can accomplish the same result.
Till Next Time
Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor