How often have you sat through a meeting only to leave wondering why you even met? Or maybe you scheduled a meeting that was only supposed to last thirty minutes and it turned into a two-hour ordeal?
Whether you’re a new leader or a seasoned manager, one of the biggest struggles you’ll face on a day-to-day basis is guarding your time from unending, unproductive meetings. But, with a little help from those five friends from the journalist’s tool box – the five Ws – you can take control of the meeting madness and lead a successful meeting.
You should chose who you invite to each meeting carefully. Don’t invite everyone in your department. Find people who have varying areas of expertise and levels of experience. That new intern might have some fresh new ideas, while the tenured veteran manager will know what’s been done before. Also, check with your superior to see if they want to be included. Depending on the subject, they may want a voice or they may entrust the entire process to you. By picking your attendees purposefully, you’ll not only maximize your meeting, you’ll also make sure you don’t waste the time of unnecessary attendees.
Make sure everyone knows exactly what the agenda is before you meet. Provide a brief summary of what you want to accomplish when you send out the meeting request. Then, provide a written agenda for each attendee to follow along during the meeting. The agenda should include your reason for meeting, the specifics of what you want to discuss, any preparations needed beforehand and the final product you want to walk away with, whether it’s a list of ideas or a firm decision on a problem. In addition, identify what tasks or outcomes each attendee will be responsible for after the meeting adjourns.
Put some thought into when you schedule the meeting. Generally, around lunch time and the end of the day aren’t good times because people are distracted with thoughts of food or their evening plans. Also, be realistic on how long you set the meeting to last. If all you need is a quick brainstorming session, don’t schedule an hour meeting. Likewise, if you’re going to be hammering out the marketing plan for the entire year, thirty minutes isn’t going to cut it. But, whatever time you set the meeting to end, make sure you honor it and end on time. There’s nothing worse than a meeting that gets dragged out and consumes unscheduled time.
The location of your meeting is also important. Crowding into a small conference room or being spread out over a large auditorium will negatively affect the attendees and productivity of the meeting. Also, some meetings are better held offsite, especially if they involve in-depth brainstorming or will last more than a few hours. Wherever you choose, make sure you officially reserve the space and double check that it meets all of your technical needs.
Finally, you need to clearly understand and communicate to the attendees the big picture of why you’re meeting. Are you simply tossing around ideas about a new sales tool, or are you creating a new tool to help your company reach its yearly sales goal? As the one who’s calling the meeting, you must have a clear vision of the importance of your meeting. There’s a reason you’re asking for the input of others, so make sure you communicate that reason.
By simply remembering the five Ws of meeting management – who, what, when, where, and why – you can make sure the next time you send out a meeting request, your co-workers will look forward to a productive, successful meeting instead of frantically searching for an excuse to turn down your request.
We’re curious just how much time people are spending in meetings in the average work week. Tally up your total hours, and let us know in the poll below.