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Sorry, could you please repeat that?

Updated: Nov 20, 2019


Oh, I’m sorry! Was this meeting, the one that you are here for, the one you accepted, the one that is important for you to be a part of, getting in the way of something more important? Got it, no problem, we will just waste everyone else’s time and provide a recap of everything we all discussed as a group to catch you up. (Insert fuming red face).

While you are probably pretty familiar with these common annoyances and all of the memes out there poking fun at the painful reality of meetings today (if numerous meetings fill your day), the impact on teams and across organizations is no joke. Time is wasted, individuals aren’t engaged, and productivity is lost. According to a survey conducted by The Muse, $37 billion wasted per year on productive meetings, and while there are 25 million meetings per day, executives consider more than 67% of meetings to be failures.


While we can’t simply eliminate the inconsiderate individuals we are forced to have meetings with, there are a few key things we can all do to make meetings more engaging and productive, helping eliminate that desire for others to disconnect and multi-task. When organizing a meeting, there are a few critical considerations that are key to its success.


Objective

  • Does the discussion require a meeting, or can it be solved with an email or quick informal conversation? If so, what is that objective? If you can’t seem to come up with a specific objective, my guess is you probably don’t actually need a meeting to discuss.

Agenda

  • If you’ve determined your objective and a meeting is necessary, determining the agenda is next. An agenda is required. I repeat, every meeting must have a clear agenda of what needs to be accomplished during the allotted time. The agenda should be provided beforehand within the body of the invite, so the attendees have an opportunity to review and be prepared for the topic. This is also helpful in trimming down the time required to “get everyone up to speed” and to “set the stage.” Ask yourself what needs to be accomplished, if there is any supporting documentation that should be provided beforehand, what areas need to be represented and who the key players/stakeholders are? This information should be identified within the detailed agenda for the audience to see.

Representation

  • As mentioned above, representation is key, and each invitee should have a clear role in the conversation. Far too little effort is spent in this area, so meetings are scheduled with far too many members (just in case) or simply not the right people. If I receive an invite and have no idea what my role is (am I required for a decision, should I be expected to provide my perspective, etc.) I certainly am not engaged because I do not know what is expected of me. Additionally, will you allow the meeting to be forwarded to others? If you would like to review any attendees, add a note asking that the meeting not be forwarded and, should an individual be missing that would be crucial for the conversation, ask that they respond to the organizer and ask to be added. Forwarded invites get messy since it is unclear if it was forwarded for delegation purposes, as an FYI, because they were missed, etc. My recommendation would be to avoid forwards to the extent possible, allowing the meeting organizer the opportunity to add to the invite and defining the individual’s role. If I wasn’t on the initial meeting invite, I’d be asking myself how important I really am and instead probably just focus on something else. 😉

Timing

  • How much time is really needed? While it seems common practice to schedule more time “just in case,” blocking off time on someone’s calendar takes time away from potential meetings/discussions that could be more urgent and/or prolongs a meeting unnecessarily, just because there is time remaining. Based on the very clear, detailed agenda, and representation, attempt to allocate a specific amount of time to each item and schedule time accordingly. When at time, end the meeting to be respectful of time. Extending past the end time delays the next meeting from starting on time which is just rude and inconsiderate.

With all of that said, regardless of what system you are using to schedule meetings, attempt to utilize the following template:


Title of meeting - Choose a name that gives individuals insight into what the meeting is about


The body of the invitation should include the following:


Purpose of Meeting - A general statement speaking to the reason the meeting is being scheduled


Background information - Any information that would provide context, including any support documentation


Attendees - If the group is not familiar with one another, listing names and the areas in which they represent would be helpful


Agenda - This should outline the format/flow of the meeting and the items to be discussed


Expected Outcome - This should outline the items that should be accomplished as a result of this meeting


Yes, while it takes a bit more time on the front-end, utilizing this approach will enable more engaging discussion, fewer meetings in general and allow work to move forward more efficiently. Don’t be lazy! And as a meeting attendee, be prepared (read the material, know what is expected of you), be respectful (be on time, accept/decline/communicate delegation) and stop the multi-tasking (be presented and engaged); it doesn’t work; we perform best doing one thing at a time. I will find you more studies than you know what to do with. There you have it, pretty simple folks!

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