What constitutes a good meeting? Or a great meeting, as far as that goes? I’m here at PGi’s Atlanta office this week, spending a few days in face-to-face meetings with coworkers I normally see only via iMeet and I am truly enjoying my changed perspective. I’m actually relishing the meetings I’ve been attending, something you rarely hear people declare. Meetings are often a tedious, time-wasting aspect of our business lives; in fact, studies have shown that meetings consume more time during the average work day than any other communication medium. Meetings take up slightly more of our work-week than email and significantly more than other communication activities such as social media and instant messaging. An hour a day spent in meetings may not seem like much, but many see this time as wasted because meetings often fail to achieve viable goals, such as the sharing of information, brainstorming, problem solving and team building. If these goals are not accomplished or the meeting leader fails to provide a clear agenda, attendees can easily become frustrated and impatient.
Clearly, meetings per se are not at fault; it’s how the meeting time is spent that becomes problematic. If the meeting’s need is not apparent, those present can understandably become resentful and view the meeting as an intrusion upon valuable work time. According to Catherine Haley, Senior Director of Training and Customer Experience at PGi:
Leaders at PGi should be meetings experts. Being a meetings expert doesn’t end with knowing which PGi meeting product would best fit the needs of a particular meeting. To us, that’s only the beginning. As leaders in the meeting industry, we should know how to conduct top notch meetings from beginning to end. After all, often times the majority of our day is spent either leading or participating in a meeting. To ensure we have all the tools we need to lead productive, engaging meetings that are focused on getting results and moving us forward, the PGi Care Training and Development team designed a course centered on the book Make Meetings Matter.
The course focuses on three key elements:
- Planning the meeting: defining the purpose, identifying the right place and the right people for the meeting and preparing the agenda.
- During the meeting: maintaining focus during the meeting, gaining feedback, employing facilitation techniques and having fun.
- At the end of and after the meeting: gaining consensus, making decisions, establishing closure, outlining next steps, critiquing and celebrating achievements and compiling communication/meeting notes.
As a meetings expert, I often find that a good meeting builds on basic principles we all know but often shortchange as we juggle multiple job responsibilities. To conduct a successful meeting, be sure to provide an agenda so the attendees will know what to expect, even if it’s just a few bullet points. Take time to consider who the right attendees are, given your agenda, and spare those whose presence is unnecessary. Enlist at least one person in the meeting to take notes, reproduce them electronically, and distribute them to the attendees within 24 hours. During the last few minutes of the meeting, identify what further action is needed and by whom. How formally or informally these principles are applied depends on your industry, the professional workplace environment and the attitudes and receptivity of your colleagues. However, if we envision and prepare for a positive and productive meeting‚ the activity that accounts for so much of our work time‚ we can increase our productivity, boost our overall job satisfaction and actually become one of those rare few who genuinely enjoy spending time in meetings.