Outlook calendars: A blessing and a curse, all wrapped into one. For time management and planning, the Outlook calendar is such a simple yet fantastic tool to keep you on task. Yet, we all find ourselves with an extraordinary amount of meetings on our calendars each week. Why? Meeting for 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there. Yes, meeting is important. But more importantly, it’s important to have successful and efficient meetings.
Here are six ways to make meetings more successful:
1. Assign tasks to create an environment of preparedness. Task your coworkers with homework so they are ready to meet…when you meet. The worst type of attendee, and meeting host, is one that’s unprepared. Be sure to set expectations prior to meeting so you can have a productive and successful meeting.
2. Who to invite, and when? Believe me, inviting 15 people to a meeting that really only requires three is a mistake. While everyone may want to be involved in every decision you and the team is responsible for, only invite those that are necessary. Yes, some of your coworkers will feel left out. And yes, they will be inquisitive but it’s your job to make the meeting count by avoiding overcrowding. If there are individuals on your team who consistently aren’t necessary in meetings, address it with them directly. They’ll respect you for it.
3. Ensure the attendees understand the mission of the meeting. Setting clear goals and objectives when sending meeting requests is essential to a successful outcome. Let your coworkers know why you want to meet, and what you expect them to bring to the table. Having a mutual understanding of what a successful outcome is helps to keep everyone on the same page. As a courtesy, recap your goals and objectives briefly to start the meeting. It will serve as a refresher to your team.
4. How long is too long? This is dependent on the complexity of the topic and number of attendees but I believe that, in most situations, 30 minutes is all you need to get the job done. Your coworker’s time is very precious. Don’t waste it by holding unnecessarily long meetings. Get to the point, search for a positive outcome, and move on. If you can’t accomplish your goal in 30 minutes you may want to dismiss those who aren’t essential to the success of the meeting.
5. Make the meeting about the meeting. Be sure that the topic and outcome are the most important thing about gathering the team. Allowing the conversation to stray towards weekend plans or office gossip is a slippery slope. Keep a laser focus on what you’re trying to get out of the meeting. Don’t let distractors distract.
6. Keep the door open to avoid lingerers. It’s inevitable that after you’ve finished up with your meeting that there will be personal conversation that ensues. It’s only natural. And while it’s fine for a few coworkers to catch up on a personal level, not everyone needs to hear it. Leave the door to the meeting space open. It will encourage shorter meetings that are on-topic.