Five things you can do right now to halve your meeting time

Think of the last meeting you ran or attended. Would you say it was purposeful, mindful or even useful? Did you leave feeling energised? Could you say it was a good use of your time?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you are among the lucky 10 per cent of those who say meetings make a positive difference to their work. Most of us will find ourselves in with the other 90 per cent who say that meetings are frequently wasteful, woeful and painful – especially in marketing or advertising.

One study by Clarizen found that people would rather take a trip to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) or watch paint dry than attend a workplace meeting. So what can you do right now to change the way you work, and the way you meet from this point on? Follow these five tips to a valuable, and shorter, meeting.

1: Start the meeting on time, no matter what!

Punctuality, or rather lack thereof, is interpreted as a lack of respect for others’ time. This can impact your team dynamics as a whole.

Most meetings these days are booked for an hour, and if we are late we are eating into everyone’s time, not just your own. So just show up on time – period. And start meetings at the exact time scheduled, irrespective of who is in the room. Everyone will soon get the standard that is accepted.

2: Make sure you have a reason to meet

Many marketers I work with complain that they spend all day in meetings and can’t get any actual tasks accomplished. Back to back meetings 24/7, every day, means that you are usually left working until 8 or 9 PM at night on “real” work.

So why are you meeting? Is it to share information, make a decision, pitch an idea or come up with a solution to a problem? If you can’t tick one of these boxes then you have no reason to meet.

3: Prepare an agenda, way ahead of time

One of the top pet peeves of people who attend meetings is that they usually don’t understand why the meeting is happening. Without a clear and focused agenda, no one knows how to prepare for the meeting, which means they waste time trying to find out through pointless chit-chat.

Prepare and share an agenda 24 hours before you meet to give everyone time to show up with any reports or documents that they need to contribute.

4: Leave phones or laptops out of the room

How often have you noticed people in meetings checking their phones or laptops, sometimes not even sneakily? Speakers in the meeting read this as a lack of interest in what they are saying, which contributes to a feeling of disrespect and can create all kinds of angst and anxiety, not to mention, terrible attention spans.

Announce the meeting as a tech-free zone. No phones, laptops or tablets allowed, even for taking notes. The only exception would be if it’s a pitch meeting and you’re using your laptop for presentation slides.

5: Facilitate the meeting

Do you know someone who always seems to hijack the meeting, chewing up air-time talking about something that should probably be talked about elsewhere (be honest: is that even you)?

Having a process and a structure to facilitate the discussion means that everyone can contribute evenly and you can plan your free-flowing conversations effectively. Nominate a chair who has the right to interrupt and park non-relevant issues so you can keep to the topic at hand.

Donna McGeorge, speaker, mentor and author of “The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact’”

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