• We Have To Stop Meeting Like This!

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    Some meetings really are a waste of time. A recent survey reports American workers spend up to 9 hours a week preparing for and attending general status meetings. Status meetings are defined as a meeting in which team members update one another on completed and active work tasks.


    I’d rather have a root canal! More than half the respondents (60%) said they spend more time planning for status meetings than they spend in the meetings themselves. Such meetings undermine productivity. Nearly half (46%) say they would prefer doing any number of unpleasant activities, such as watching paint dry, getting a mullet hairstyle or commuting 4 hours to and from work, than sit in a status meeting.


    Consider setting time limits for meetings. The economic principle, Parkinson’s Law, says work will take as long as the time made available. So if you plan two-hour meeting, your meeting will take two hours. Plan a shorter meeting and the meeting will be shorter.


    Effective meetings don’t just happen. They are planned and purposeful. If you are in charge of a meeting, here are some tips for making your meetings more productive.


    In advance of the meeting:

    • State clearly the purpose of the meeting.
    • Develop an agenda in advance and circulate it to attendees ahead of time along with any relevant articles or reports.
    • Select a space that fits the group. People should be able to sit so that everyone can see each other. A U-Shaped, circular or semi-circular arrangement is best.
    • Have a white board or flip chart where you can record decisions, tasks and questions. Consider having a place for people to write down questions that are unrelated to the topic at hand but important. A “parking lot” for tangential issues can help keep the meeting on track.


    During the meeting:

    • Start and end on time
    • Prepare a quick icebreaker to start. Ask a question, such as “What is the funniest movie you’ve ever seen? What is the most unusual food you have eaten? Or where was your favorite vacation spot?” to relax the group.
    • Follow the agenda.
    • Encourage discussion using open-ended questions but keep the conversation focused (use a “parking lot” for topics that are off track.) Don’t allow a few people to do all the talking.
    • Keep minutes of the meeting. Minutes should reflect decisions reached, actions to be taken, and who agreed to be responsible for what.
    • Ask people to share one idea or take-away at the end of the meeting.
    • Summarize and check to make sure people agree on what has been accomplished.
    • Set the time and place for the next meeting.
    • Be a role model of good meeting behavior. Express appreciation for participants and acknowledge people who helped make the meeting a success.


    After the meeting:

    • Use an end-of-meeting evaluation with just a few questions—What worked? What would improve the next meeting?
    • Distribute minutes and ask for corrections.


    Well-run meetings can be part of successful organizations. Make sure your meetings are adding value. Your colleagues will thank you!




    Vaughn Upshaw joined the School of Government in 2004 as a lecturer in government and public administration. She teaches leadership and governance to public officials and facilitates meetings for local governments on topics such as manager evaluations, clarifying expectations, strategic planning, and managing citizen advisory committees.

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