I just read an article in Entrepreneur magazine telling me that a company called WhenIsGood.net conducted research in 2009 and determined that Tuesdays at 3PM are the best time to have meetings.
I, of course, laughed when I read this. I mean, that’s great for one meeting, but I believe at last count my manager had about 6-10 meetings a day, lasting for various lengths of time. Many other managers here are in the same boat. And the question always comes up – how can we do with a little less when it comes to meetings?
Meetings are supposed to be productive, but so many aren’t. The article I referenced above does a great job of pointing out what should be done, and it’s the same story every time I read one of these:
- Concise agendas that are followed to the “T” – Make a list of what you’re going to talk about and talk about it. Doesn’t sound hard, does it?
- Hold people responsible – If you have Jane in charge of reporting on last week’s sales, it follows logically that Jane should have that information when she comes to the meeting. Jane is good like that, isn’t she?
- Keep to a start and end time for your meeting – If you stick to the amount of time given to each subject on your agenda, you should just be able to walk out the door happy at the strike of the hour. Sure! Happens all the time!
All these things work out well for you, unless there are humans on your meeting invite list. Humans will muck up the whole plan, because on one end, there’s the human meeting attendee who goes off on a passionate tangent and takes the agenda down a rabbit hole with her. And on the other end, your manager, who’s a nice guy and…well, he lets her. I can sit there and be the timekeeping Gestapo, but usually I’m ignored or regarded for the remainder of the day as the Queen B&%$! with the Watch.
The key to a productive meeting are those three things above, but the key to successful execution of those things is fun. Humans don’t mind adhering to the rules as much when everyone is having a good time. Here are some suggestions to get control of your meetings, tongue-in-cheek style:
Do your meeting stand-up style – Google is famous for this kind of thing. You can meet as long as you want, but in an area where no one can sit down. You’d be amazed at how quickly a person can cover his points when he can’t kick back and relax.
The walking meeting – Have a one-on-one status with someone that always goes long? If it’s nice outside, conduct your meeting walking around. When you get back to the starting point, the meeting is over!
Create games around staying on point/keeping on time – Create fun consequences for those who break the time and subject rules, and perhaps even reward the others in attendance at the meetings when the rules are broken by a fellow attendee.
Ask the attendees to get involved in the process – Usually, attendees are upset when someone goes off on a tangent as well. With the group, define what they consider to be unwanted meeting behaviors, and then allow them to call out others on those behaviors. Every group that meets regularly should have a set of rules that they all agree are good ones to follow, but there’s no reason why they can’t have a good time following them.
Fun can help you move a meeting to the next level of productivity. Of course, if your manager runs a tight ship, you may not need to invoke fun. But if you struggle with a bunch of chatty-Cathies who are so nice to one another that they let conversations go on and on, this may be the way to keep the meeting on track, whether it’s on Tuesdays at 3PM or not.
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