How To Save Time During Meetings

Are you wasting your time attending meetings?  Are there better ways to spend your precious time?

On average, eleven million business meetings are held each day, 37% of an employee’s time is spent on meetings and a further 92% of attendees value meetings as providing an opportunity to contribute, which leads to job satisfaction.  According to this same study by the MCI Conferencing White Paper on meetings in America, nearly all meeting attendees (91%) admit to day dreaming during meetings, while over 39% have fallen asleep!

So what’s the problem? 

First of all, never agree to attend a meeting unless you absolutely, positively must be present (or if your boss says that you need to be there.)  Instead request a copy of the minutes and/or the Powerpoint deck.  These highlights will give you the gist of what was discussed and will save you time.

However, there are times, when you need to Chair or attend the meeting.  The following are some tips to maximize your time.

When you are the Chair of the meeting:

  • Identify the purpose of the meeting.
  • Pin point the target audience, attendees and decision makers.  Only include the people who need to be there. 
  • Give attendees advance notice, agenda items and brief background information on the topics.  Participants need time to prepare and do research.  It will provide better quality decisions, and reduce the change of another meeting after everyone has done further research and review.
  • Record attendance.
  • Follow the agenda!   Seems straight forward, but it is easy to get off track.
  • Invite a facilitator, if you think that it will be a difficult discussion.
  • Appoint a time keeper.  Allocate a time limit for each agenda item and stick to it.  Ensure that the meeting ends on time.
  • Appoint a note taker.  Ask them to record the record of decisions, the person who will action the decision and due date.
  • Keep your own notes on the items you need to follow up on.
  • Allow everyone equal time to contribute ideas.  Tactfully encourage the quiet members to share their ideas, too.
  • For discussions that involve 3 or less attendees, have a separate mini meeting, either before or after the main meeting.  It will save everyone time and make both meetings more productive.
  • Set up a “parking lot” to capture good ideas, that do not relate to the agenda.  Be sure to follow up on the items and get back to the participants who brought it up.
  • Delegate responsibility to people who asked for an item on the agenda.  Let them lead the discussion around the topic, but as the Chairperson, give them guidance to keep the dialogue on track.
  • Periodically summarize the discussion, ensuring that the Notetaker has captured all of the essential points.
  • Thank the participants for attending.
  • Summarize the next steps for the group.
  • Follow up the action steps within one week of the meeting and report back to the group, as needed.
  • Some meetings may tend to unite or divide the members.  Therefore, start and end with topics that will bring the group together.
  • Many meetings are not productive after two hours.  Therefore, set up the meeting so it will finish on time before lunch or at the end of the day.
  • Set up the next meeting, while everyone is present, along with their calendars.

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”  Thomas Sewell

When you are a participant of the meeting:

  • Review the agenda before the meeting.  Prepare to discuss the items that apply to you.  Bring documents to support your discussion points.
  • Review the attendee list and be aware of what their stake might be at the meeting. 
  • Be clear about your meeting role during the meeting.
  • During the meeting, contribute your ideas, as best as you can.
  • Be prepared to take on action steps, this is part of why you are there.  Be clear about what you are supposed to do, and the timing.  You will be held accountable by the group, so decide on how you will action your plan and report back to the group.

By following these suggestions for the meeting chair and participant, you will have a timely and productive meeting.  

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