meetingBy Kevin Eikenberry

Meetings can be a tremendous waste of time, and more often than not, your employees are dreading them. Why?

Because meetings often don’t drive any results. The time is spent rehashing or revisiting issues that weren’t resolved at previous meetings. And, as people sit there, all they can think is “This is a complete waste of my time when I should be doing _____________ right now!”

Meetings with virtual employees are especially complex because you must use technology to communicate across distances. You can’t rely on social cues and body language to gauge the effectiveness of the meeting, and it is harder to evaluate if attendees are paying attention.

In addition, remote employees may be likely to come to virtual meetings unprepared. After all, it’s easier to say “I didn’t get it done” when you aren’t seated in a room with fellow teammates. Coworkers annoyance (e.g., eye rolls, dirty looks and sighs) don’t translate through a phone line.

Before you schedule meetings, decide first if doing so is even necessary. You will often find that a quick one-on-one call with each employee or a group email can replace the meeting. However, when you do feel that a meeting is necessary, take the following steps to ensure that attendees do their part to make the meeting a success.

Create a list of clear desired outcomes

Why are you holding the meeting? If you can’t clearly describe the goals of the meeting, you won’t accomplish anything? Before checking the calendar to schedule a meeting, write down clearly defined statements of what you want to achieve. Share those with the team prior to meeting.

Those objectives form the basis for the meeting. In addition, because you establish clear expectations, everyone comes prepared to work.

Invite the right people

One reason meetings are ineffective is that often participants don’t know why their presence is needed. Don’t simply invite everyone to every meeting. Instead, think about who should attend. Start with your desired outcomes and a blank sheet of paper. Look at the desired outcomes, and consider who must be involved to ensure that you can reach that goal. Who’s input or buy-in is required? Invite only those people.

Then when you invite people, explain exactly why their presence is needed. Send a quick email to each person explaining why he or she is important to the success of the meeting. When employees fully understand why and how their attendance is needed, they are more committed to ensuring a positive outcome.

Send an agenda ahead of time

So many people say they know they should create agendas, but they rarely do. And if they do, they don’t route the agenda to participants in advance.

If you want people to be prepared for a meeting, they need to know what is going to happen and what you expect of them. Create an agenda that details the reason for the meeting, your desired outcomes and any work you need them to prepare for the meeting.

While sending out the agenda ahead of time won’t ensure that everyone is always prepared, doing so will change the dynamics of the situation. When people have every opportunity to prepare for a meeting, they begin to run out of excuses.

Require participation 

Don’t let virtual employees zone out. Instead, ask each team member to prepare to present one agenda item. In addition, ask quiet employees direct questions to keep them engaged in the conversation.

With some preparation, you can run meaningful meetings that get results.

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  1. Kevin, I appreciate your post. Your initial statement sets an important tone. “Because meetings often don’t drive any results”. I see meetings as only a means to an end. The meeting isn’t the goal, getting progress and results is.

    I’d love to see meetings as a step in the progress to be reaching the groups goals. When shifting the angle, your main points then focus on the progress. What’s the outcomes needed to move forward? Are we on track from our previous actions? Have the right people needed for this next step(s) and let others just get the notes if the meeting isn’t central to them.

    I feel rethinking the meeting as a component to progress rather than being central can vastly improve overall productivity.

    Thank you for all your work. As usual great material.

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