Meetings don’t have to be the enemy of productivity

meetingspraticalalternativetoworkAsk a person what they enjoy about their work and very few will say that they love a long meeting.  Indeed, some will note that they seem counter to productivity, as it takes time away from when they could be doing “actual work.”  The best way to deal with this is to make sure that, as a project manager, you know how run a meeting well.

First off, preparation is key.  Before you even enter the meeting on the calendar, you should know what you want the outcome to be.  Are you making a decision?  Are you brainstorming ideas?  Are you communicating to your group, or are they communicating to you?  Regardless, one key to success is to complete the sentence “When this meeting is done, the group will…”  Because once you have that in mind, knowing what has to be done in the meeting will be easier.

And once you know what needs to be done, you’ll need to actually do it. (Imagine that!)  Make sure you have a clear agenda and perhaps send it out to the meeting invitees so they know what is coming up.  Plus, if there are people making presentations at the meeting, meet with them to make sure that things are moving smoothly on their end.

Finally, make sure that you’ve prepped the meeting area itself.  You’ve been in a meeting where the room was so hot that you felt like there was a life-and-death struggle to keep from falling asleep, or perhaps in a room so cold that you wondered if butchers used it to store meat.  Make sure that the room is ready to go, at the right temberature and with the right equipment (because nothing brings a meeting to a screeching halt faster than “Huh, there was supposed to be a projector…).  Also, bring refreshments; bribing your attendees with free food and drink will go a long way.

Once the meeting is underway, the key to meeting success is to stick to the agenda.  There are two main enemies to this–the hijacker and the bloviator.  The hijacker will want to discuss something not on the agenda, and the bloviator loves the sound of their own voice.  Do not let them take over!

Interrupt the hijacker, saying “This is a valid point, but it’s not on the agenda; does this meeting want to discuss this now or shall we table it for the future?”  If the group thinks it is important, than it is important and probably worth discussing.  If not, then you can move on with your meeting lives.

As for the bloviator, this one is a little more tricky.  You probably don’t want to interrupt, as they are trying to contribute, but they perhaps are doing so too much.  Wait until they pause for breath (and though it may not seem like it, they do need to breathe) and interrupt.  Summarize their point, and then ask if others in the group would like to comment.  That can do a lot to get you back on track.

It is important to try to get the meeting to wind down on time.  If you have a reputation of starting meetings on time, and ending meetings on time, then the process of meeting with you becomes less onerous.  It’s the ones who call meetings that run from 2-ish until “question mark” that get the most groans.

Also, once the meeting is done, send out a summary of what happened and what will be coming up soon, so the attendees know that the meeting was useful.

Hopefully these tips will help you run a productive meeting.  And if you need help from people with relevant IT project management experience and skills, all you have to do is contact us.

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