Every executive should strive for meaningful meetings. They are possible and desirable. Important meetings are often viewed as an absurdity by many. Research consistently shows that meetings are a waste of time and can cost substantial amounts. Studies show that over 75% waste time in meetings. Get a Klu, a company that offers corporate coaching and training services found that 31 hours per month are lost to inefficient meetings. They also found that half of the 11 million meetings in America each day are wasted.
Reduced wasteful meetings can increase personal effectiveness, morale, and company productivity. At least half the hundreds of sessions that I attended at work, church, and other places were not necessary. While we could have achieved better results, meetings did not hinder relationships.
It is essential to stop the epidemic of pointless meetings by focusing on meaningful encounters. Never omit a discussion. As I will show, we sometimes need to meet; however, as I demonstrate below. Here are six essential elements for holding meaningful meetings. These six elements, although not exhaustive, will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
Meaningful Meetings Ingredients
These basic principles will help attendees be more productive at the meeting, as well as the meetings that follow.
Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette
Air Traffic Controller
Meeting conveners are responsible for making them meaningful and producing specific results. The meeting’s purpose, agenda, and expected outcomes are all created by the conveners or their delegates. They make sure that the correct people are recording highlights and taking necessary actions. However, they don’t actually do these things.
To help the convener see the process through the meeting, she needs someone to support her. If there is no concern for the process, some people will dominate, and the discussion can drift off-topic. People need to understand that the outcome is determined by the process.
Each meeting may not have the same purpose. Each meaningful session must have a sense. There are three types of arrangements: information sharing, accountability or reporting, and problem-solving. What’s the point of calling a meeting if there is no purpose? A session can be an excellent way for people to put off difficult decisions or procrastinate. However, the convener and perhaps a few others know the purpose but don’t communicate it to others beforehand because that’s how things work in this firm.
Meetings are sometimes called out of habit. Because they have been doing it for years, they hold weekly or other appointments. Nobody asks why. I remember being invited to become an elder in a church. I asked the pastor why they held weekly elders’ meetings. He was shocked by my response. Why would I not know? But, I asked, “Why do we have to meet every week?” Answer: Because that’s what we’ve done all along. I declined the invitation.
Japan: Measuringful Meetings
There were two main differences between West and East business meetings. First, the sessions were long and meaningful. This is not the case here, where discussions are short and meaningless.
The second is that they often tell you the purpose of problem-solving meetings in Asia. They invite people who are willing to give their views at the meeting. Many people in the West come to meetings not prepared but willing to share their opinions.
The group listened to each individual’s speech, probably out of respect for the hierarchy and elders. Participants were able to listen to one another and build on each other’s ideas. The West is a place where one person speaks, and others listen, but they plan their statements, which may not be related to what was said.
Sometimes, in the West, you don’t even know what the purpose of a meeting is until it begins. The nature of the conference is often not mentioned in the invitation. We compete for airtime in meetings. People are not open to hearing the views of others. Instead, we interrupt each other mid-sentence to add our thoughts, even if they don’t build on the speaker.
We in Japan agreed on the purpose of meetings at the beginning. We then focus on solving the problem. Each person didn’t compete for airtime. This system was lacking in information sharing and accountability meetings, however. As an example, I was on two Japanese public companies’ boards and found the lack of data and infrequent shareholder meetings to be quite surprising.
Agendas are a crucial component of meaningful meetings.
A carefully planned agenda is the best way to describe the purpose of the meeting. It should include a start and end time. It should contain all the necessary information and clearly indicate what items are being discussed. Ideally, it should consist of a start and end time for each agenda item. It should also show who is responsible for each item as well as the expected outcome of the meeting. We often spend too much time on essential things, even if they don’t have controversial issues, and rush to get to the rest, regardless of their importance.
Meeting attendees need to have a reason for attending. Only those who are directly involved in the topic should attend a session that is intended to exchange data or receive reports. The size of the group and the number of invitees for a session to solve problems will depend on the topic. These sessions require careful planning and a skilled convener to ensure that each person is able to express his views without interruption. Before voicing their opinions, people must listen to, consider, and take in the information of the speaker. Before debating or dismissing others’ opinions, it is essential that people get to know their fellow citizens.
These are some procedural points to help us keep our focus during problem-solving sessions.
Before you discuss specific suggestions, please explain them fully.
Differentiate clarification from challenges to the substance
Before moving on to the next, finish one proposal.
The convener should encourage outside-the-box solutions that challenge the status quo. Never stop discussions until everyone understands the issue. Unusual ideas may provide the basis for the answer. Don’t be afraid to share them with others.
Discussions should not be monopolized by anyone.
The convener must be sensitive to the opinions of different people.
The meeting should agree on action items. Someone should keep track of critical developments and follow-up activity for each proposal, including the following:
Who is responsible for a specific action?
What is the nature of action?
When and when to expect the following feedback
Cost – Source of resources needed until the following feedback
While many of these items are applicable to all meetings, they’re essential during a problem-solving session.
Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette
The invitation should indicate the start and end times of the meeting and the time and responsibility for each agenda topic. The discussion should not exceed 45 minutes to one hour and should be kept to the time allotted.
Don’t allow tardy attendees. All invitees should be aware that the meeting will begin at the scheduled time. Therefore, each person must arrive a few minutes early to ensure a timely start. It is the most offensive thing that I see in events and meetings when the convener promises she will wait for more people to arrive. This is a disgraceful statement to the people who arrived on time. It encourages lateness and negligent behavior.
Meetings that are meaningful require proper time-keeping. Here’s how to do it.
No latecomers allowed
Talking on your cell phone or having side conversations in the room is not allowed.
You are not allowed to return to the room if someone leaves to make a phone call or talk to a colleague in another area.
There should be no extraneous conversations: the time must be devoted to discussing the agenda items.
The meeting will be over on time, and each topic will get the time it was scheduled.
There should be no interruptions. Each person must complete his thoughts. Except for the convener, the following comment must be related to the previous statement.
Every person is valued, and his or her opinions are encouraged. No one will be allowed to dominate the discussion.
My “ongoing meetings” (my classes) require that students arrive in style five minutes prior to the start of each lesson. Students who are unable to be there on time can still enter the classroom during breaks, but not when class is in session. My students understand it and are punctual 99.9% of the time.
A controller for air traffic is essential for meaningful meetings.
It is difficult but essential to stop one person from trying to dominate discussions. The convener or chair often loses sight of the process, and people drift off the topic. The meeting is often overlooked by a few people, which can lead to the forum not reaching its goal. The convener must choose someone who will ensure that everyone has equal airtime. This is done by an “air traffic controller” (or process consultant)
Shy people and those who don’t want to compete for air-time will not speak if the goal is solely on the outcome. While others will talk, they will not offer much. For a productive meeting, a process consultant is essential. They will sit beside the convener and focus on the process. The convener is responsible for the outcome. However, the consultant examines the process to make sure everyone can contribute. The consultant will examine body language, nonverbals, talking too much, people who are unable to communicate, and so forth.
Although the consultant is not involved in the discussion, he/she tries to encourage maximum participation through the convener. An experienced consultant will monitor the flow of meetings to ensure that people who are reluctant to speak but wish to offer their views on critical issues. These people have the most significant positive effect on meeting outcomes, according to my experience.
What are the Best Times to Meet?
There are many ways that we can meet electronically today. It is important to remember that we can satisfy electronically if it is convenient and we don’t need to leave our offices. As I said before, there are three main types of meetings. They include information sharing, accountability, or responsibility reporting, as well as problem-solving. The following questions should be asked before the meeting:
What are the reasons we should meet?
Are we in need of interaction?
Were we just telling people what they can easily read?
Are we required to collaborate to create new ideas?
Is it worth being together?
Are there so many people who need to get along with one another?
What if we didn’t get along?
This is the best way to use people’s time, recognizing that reducing attendance saves time for everyone.
Zero Electronic Devices Except For Note-Taking
We should ban electronic devices from the room, except for note-taking, in order to increase the likelihood of meaningful meetings. People who “expect calls” to be called should not attend. It should be clear: We need your full attention if you have been invited to participate in the meeting. We will not contact you if you do not expect them to.
We should ban electronic devices from the room, except for note-taking, in order to increase the likelihood of meaningful meetings. People who “expect calls” should not be allowed to attend. It should be clear: Anyone who invites you to a meeting needs your full attention. If you expect someone will contact you during the meeting, then you should leave the forum and ask another person to inform you. Only those who are able and willing to attend should be there.
Companies can become more dynamic by having meaningful meetings. These meetings can be a great way to inspire your employees. They should be supported by every CEO. It is also true that the reverse is true. People who meet with no real purpose other than to meet create waste and expense and crush morale.
We need to have many face-to-face meetings due to human interaction. We should ask ourselves if we really need every meeting we are planning to host. We should also question whether we need to be invited to meetings that others organize and always suggest alternatives.