Think back to a time where you had to sit through a boring, wasteful meeting. Maybe you’ve had one already today.
Recently my friend, BK, told me about a nightmare meeting he experienced with high-paid television studio executives where he’s consulting on a TV show.
“It was the worst meeting ever,” he said. “What a complete waste of time.”
I asked him to elaborate on what happened.
“It all went wrong before it even began because no one was prepared. There was no set agenda, no set objective, and no one had any idea of when their mission would be accomplished. That invited the ‘idea fairy’ to show up and a whole bunch of stupid ideas to surface,” he explained with exasperation. It was a case of “too many chefs in the kitchen making for an unproductive restaurant”.
The meeting resulted in three wasted hours that those highly paid experts will never get back. The cumulative loss of time, money, and opportunity was well into the tens of thousand of dollars. It happens at the largest organizations, at every level, and even your local community organizations.
But the problems can be fixed. The idea fairy can be banished. A little preparation, in terms of both the attendees and the planned outcome, will make a huge difference in your meetings and ultimately in the success of your day and your business.
As Matt Smith says, running meetings well is a skill.
Step #1 – Limit the Meeting to the Right People
The importance of having all the right people and none of the wrong people in the meeting cannot be overstated.
Every person in the room should be there for a specific reason. If you can’t look around the room and explain very succinctly why each person is there then you’re wasting someone’s time and potentially everyone’s time. Each person should either contribute to specific decisions that are expected to be made -OR- take the action required after the meeting ends. Identify and eliminate the people who don’t contribute to either of these causes. Having someone in the room to generate ideas isn’t enough of a reason. Consult with them before the meeting begins in your preparation.
Step #2 – The Meeting Must Have a Very Clear Leader
The meeting leader is not an assumed role. It should be clearly stated in advance so the leader can properly prepare.
The meeting leader must know what the primary activity is for the meeting in general and must drive forward the agenda. They must keep the meeting focused and moving. The purpose of having a meeting can usually be boiled down to one (or a combination) of the four things below.
1) Making Decisions
3) Information sharing: One to Many
4) Information sharing: Brainstorming/Problem Solving
The meeting driver must know where they are in relation to the agenda, meeting objectives, and what activity would best serve that end at any point in the meeting.
Step #3 – Have Measurable Outcomes (M/O)
Every meeting must have a stated measurable outcome.
“By the end of this meeting we will have decided X and Y, we’ll appoint a driver to take responsibility for Y and we’ll put together a rough timeline for when Y will be launched.”
It’s a good idea to state the M/O before the meeting starts and at the end of the meeting make sure everyone agrees that the M/O has been accomplished. Be clear and concise. For example:
“We have a lot of membership renewals coming due and we want to improve the retention rate of our subscribers. To do this, we are going to test email reminders compared to the postcards we use now. So, the purpose of this meeting is to decide how we’re going to roll this test out.”
“The Measurable Objective for the meeting is this: By the end of the meeting we’ll know exactly what we want to test. We’ll decide on an approach to the copy that we’ll be testing. We’ll know what logistically is required to pull off the test and we’ll assign specific tasks to individuals to execute the test.”
Matt will often write the M/O on a flip chart or white board where everyone sees it throughout the meeting. State the M/O at the beginning of the meeting to focus you and everyone else in the room on the goal of the meeting.
This will keep you on track and everyone will feel that it was a productive use of their time when at the end of the meeting they see the M/O was achieved.
Step #4 – Stay Focused
In every meeting there will be times where the conversation will start to drift into side conversations that are irrelevant to the M/O. When this happens, the meeting driver must gently interrupt the conversation and bring everyone back to the decision you are trying to make. Be gentle, but firm.
Step #5 – End with a Plan and Give People Specific Assignments
Once decisions have been made, it’s time to assign follow-up work to meeting members. Be specific. Make sure that each team member completely understands their objectives and can verbally restate them to the meeting driver along with the deadline for the delivery of the work.
Someone should write up a summary email that restates the tasks, owners, and due dates.
Having a clear and concise plan makes sure the benefits of the meeting are not lost in the day-to-day shuffle of busy work. Only after this is the meeting wrapped up.
Efficiently planned meetings will respect everyone’s time and propel the business forward. Start by having only the relevant team members attend the meeting. Be clear about the agenda and the measurable outcomes. Stay focused. Make decisions. And eliminate unnecessary conversations. Once decisions have been made, assign work specifically to individuals and get confirmation that they understand both their objectives and the deadline for their work. Don’t leave unsettled decisions unless it cannot be avoided.
Follow that simple blueprint and you’ll maximize your meeting time. You’ll get three times as much work done and dramatically increase your productivity. You’ll no longer be a high priced executive with their time wasted. Instead, you’ll just be high-paid.[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with a web-based business that you can operate from anywhere in the world – including a coffee shop, your kitchen table, or anywhere around the world where there is Internet access. Discover how you can achieve the American Dream and your financial independence here. You’ve never seen anything like this before.]