(Photo: “Mic” by Flickr user Robert Bejil, via Attribution 2.0 license)
We have all sat in those meetings (you know the kind that I am talking about) where you swear you’ve walked out of with fewer brain cells than you had when you walked in. It all started with Disorganized Dan, who forgot to create an agenda (again) and couldn’t articulate the goal of the meeting. Late Larry didn’t contribute because he was well, late as usual, and Silent Sally and her bestie iMessage Ilana were obviously useless. This left you, as usual, feeling like the only person in the room contributing to a conversation that you didn’t fully understand even after you walked away. You know you received some type of vague assignment but wait, what was it again?
We can all agree that this type of scenario is never fun, so here are a few quick tips on how to approach planning and attending meetings that are empowering, successful and worthwhile:
- Prepare/Create a Realistic Agenda: You should have this finished before you even send the meeting invite. Attach it to the invite so your colleagues know what outcome is expected during the timeframe so that everyone can better prepare themselves and know which ideas and opinions to bring to the table.
- Drive Home the Importance of Timeliness: People can be notorious for this. If someone comes in late, give him or her the benefit of the doubt the first time. After that, make sure to address their tardiness each time it occurs. If it keeps happening, loop in a manager. If you’re attending a meeting, be respectful and be on time.
- Limit Device Use: Obviously, this isn’t always feasible, especially if the meeting is long and attendees need to tend to one-off client needs during the planned timeframe. However, phone communication for personal use is a big distraction and can inhibit someone from absorbing anything that was discussed. In turn, if you’re attending a meeting, do everyone a favor and text your girlfriend/boyfriend when you get back to your desk.
- Clearly Define Next Steps: From Apple to Google, the world’s most successful organizations demand that attendees leave meetings with actionable tasks. This helps hold everyone accountable and aids in the delivery process. Trust me, this will make your office a happier place.
- Set Expectations First. It’s extremely important at the beginning of certain discussions to clarify discussion expectations. Is this discussion meant to stimulate creative thinking? Is it to discuss project tactics? Or is the direction already decided and you want people to express their opinions and concerns? Are we brainstorming or are we evaluating? What do you want the end of this conversation to look like and sound like?