Anyone who has ever worked in a business or owned one, is familiar with the business meeting conundrum. On one hand, there is a vital need for face-time among employees and partners and on occasion, suppliers, vendors, and even customers to touch base, exchange ideas, and work out any problems. But the truth is that most people dread business meetings and would much prefer to avoid them if they could. Underlying the collective groan is the fact that attendees tend to view these get-togethers as a contrived, painful process as well as a waste of precious time. Instead of boosting productivity and morale, it seems business meetings are creating the opposite effect.
The business world has tried all sorts of remedies in order to make meetings more enjoyable and productive. Notable entries to this initiative include: unusual positions (such as standing), or holding meetings in an gimmicky place (how about outdoors riding on a “conference bike”?) or even including a variety of cheesy activities, such as childish group-building exercises, games, and quizzes.
But to be honest, most of these strategies just end up making the process even more painful for the vast majority of the people who are being subjected to the experience (whether or not they will admit it).
Given that we can’t just do away with all business meetings, how can we really solve this issue in a way that truly makes the participants happy? Here are five points to consider that most businesses don’t realize:
1. Only meet when necessary. With so many modes of real-time, collaborative communication available to us these days, we really don’t need to be conducting so many official meetings. If something can be effectively communicated to a group of employees or partners, etc. without having to meet, then do so. Meetings are appropriate for issues and information that is more easily or quickly communicated in person, or for things that require some kind of “human response,” such as getting reactions and feedback from employees before a major change in the business.
2. Stick to a very clear agenda. Make sure that everyone is aware of what will be discussed before the meeting. This helps to keep everyone on the same page, but it also gets participants thinking about the topics beforehand so that they show up adequately prepared for the discussion.
3. Pick a time that works for everyone. Depending on how busy your participants may be, scheduling a meeting effectively can get tricky. But, if you are following the first two tips, then it is an event that your participants can prepare their own schedules for. They may even look forward to it. Also, pay attention to the time of day as well as the day of the week that the meeting is scheduled for, and make sure this time aligns with the goals of the meeting. You shouldn’t, for example, schedule a long problem-solving meeting on a Friday afternoon. But, you could use that time for a strategy update or for an encouragement session.
4. Pick a meeting length that fits the goal. If the purpose of your meeting is really just to touch base, and there are only a handful of people attending, then 10 to 15 minutes may be enough time. Scheduling too much time will just cause everyone involved to procrastinate and get off track. On the other hand, for bigger agendas you need to make sure that there is enough time allotted for everything to get adequately discussed and for decisions to be made by the end of the meeting.
5. Only invite the people who need to be there. Collaboration is great, but only when the right people are involved. Otherwise, it can end up being a distraction. A lot of time can get wasted and morale dampened when there are people who don’t need to be there. They are distracted and bored, and can bring down the energy and attention span of everyone else.
In short, business meetings don’t have to be painful. Just don’t set them up for failure before they have even happened.