Avoiding hostage situations: 5 tips to running great meetings

Updated: Apr 27

Have you ever been held hostage in a meeting, only to book another meeting from that meeting?

It happens all the time. Meetings are a top time waster in corporate America.

Some startling statistics have revealed that companies spend between $70 and $283 billion on ineffective meetings (yes, that’s billion with a B). A survey revealed that 76% of people find most of their meetings unnecessary. Another 59% said the meeting facilitator did not stay on topic. To make matters worse, attendees are rarely paying attention, with 74% engaging in other tasks such as checking their personal emails, eating lunch, and going to the restroom (not at the same time, I hope!). Does this mean that meetings are ineffective as a whole? Absolutely not. Meetings are effective when they have a defined objective. I’d like to share five specific tips to implement when running meetings to make your meetings effective and accomplish your goal: 1. Set a clear objective. Your meeting should have a clear objective. This is different than an agenda which I will discuss in the next point. Your objective defines your goal and reason for having the meeting. Set the tone of your meeting, reminding your attendees of the objective and goal of the meeting, and anything outside that scope is open to be discussed offline. This will control the discussion and help you avoid tangents. If someone does move off topic, offer to discuss at another time—take it offline!

If you cannot define a clear objective for your meeting, ask yourself if an email would be a more appropriate form of communication. 2. Have an agenda. One way to accomplish your meeting’s objective is to create an agenda. This seems like a no-brainer but I have often attended meetings with no agenda. Consider your agenda as the blueprint of your meeting. Even the shortest of 15-minute daily stand-up meetings have three agenda items to stay on point. 3. Run on time. If you call a meeting with your colleagues, respect their time. Set the expectations of the meeting by letting them know a distinctive start and end time. This will allow them to plan their schedules accordingly. Meetings that run lose the interest of their attendees and you often lose your audience as people leave early to attend other meetings or obligations. Avoid this by staying on time and on topic.

4. Control the size of the group. The larger the group, the more distractions you have to account for which often leads to running over time in your meeting. Also, if you’re opening up the floor to discussion, a larger group will require more time. If the concern is that someone will miss key information, that’s where meeting minutes and/or action items log can be effective–and consistently provide them. One client revealed to me that she had 45 attendees in a standing meeting—it took 10 minutes alone to take attendance. 5. End the meeting on time—if not early! I try to make it a point to end a face-to-face meeting on time. In fact, if at all possible, I try to end the meeting with 10-15 minutes to spare. From experience, if you can end a meeting early, you will endear yourself to your attendees. The additional time allows for relationship building for those who want to stick around and to immediately follow up on those offline topics. These tips probably sound familiar and might make you say, “well of course we should be doing these things!” Yet time and time again, I witness the violation of these better practice tips in many meetings where I am the participant (victim). Meetings no doubt can be a time suck. The statistics definitely back that up. Evaluate your objective to see whether or not a meeting is the best form of communication to achieve your goal. If it is, make sure you state the objective clearly to your attendees, map out an agenda and stay on time. If you do these things, you will be one of the few that engages in productive meetings. Don’t hold your colleagues hostage and become another statistic.

“Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

What tips do you have to ensure you run an effective meeting? Leave your comments!

Additional Resources:https://www.inc.com/john-white/ineffective-meetings-cost-companies-up-to-283-billion-a-year-streamline-collaboration-with-these-tips.htmlhttps://www.themuse.com/advice/how-much-time-do-we-spend-in-meetings-hint-its-scaryhttps://hbr.org/2013/12/the-seven-imperatives-to-keeping-meetings-on-track Cover image designed by Raw Pixel (rawpixel.com) / Freepik (Freepik.com).


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