5 remedies for healthy meetings
21 FEBRUARY 2014 7:13 AM
To maximize productivity during meetings, use these five remedies.
Do your staff meetings lack that healthy glow of productivity and vitality? Are you getting the most out of your team’s meeting experience? Do your department heads experience the following symptoms?
- Loss of time, space and memory: “We just sat here for more than two hours and I’m not sure what was accomplished.”
- Lack of sleep: “Now I’m going to have to work late tonight to finish my project.”
- Narcolepsy: “I can’t keep my eyes open; this presentation is putting me to sleep.”
- Disoriented: “This is a big waste of time. I am so confused and frustrated.”
- Paranoia: “We were supposed to start at 2 p.m. Where is everyone? Am I late?”
If you have experienced any of these meeting-induced symptoms, never fear. You are not alone. You just might have a case of Disoriented Meeting Deficit Disorder, or DMDD. Not to worry; there is a cure.
Let’s take a closer look. Hypothetically, you just received the following meeting notice:
2:00 p.m. Monday
It is now 1:00 p.m. Monday afternoon. With a huge check-in looming, you work feverishly to get as much of the pre-arrival work done as you can to accommodate the meeting time. You have no idea what the meeting is about, so you feel ill prepared. You spend a few minutes or so asking around where the meeting will be held. Everyone you talk to is wondering the same.
It is now 1:45 p.m. and you finally receive a notice that the meeting is in a meeting room on the other side of the hotel. After scrambling to get to the meeting before 2:00 p.m. you walk in only to find three out of the 10 invited managers in the meeting room. The meeting facilitator, John (we keep his department name anonymous to protect the innocent), calls the meeting room to say he will be joining shortly. John says, “No worries. I figured some of you would be late, so I finished up a report I was working on.” While you wait, a few more meeting attendees show up, and at 2:28 p.m., the meeting finally begins with only half of the managers in attendance.
The facilitator begins the meeting with a short greeting and synopsis of the Grammy awards show viewed over the weekend. Others participate in the conversation by giving their reviews as well. The conversation ends about 15 minutes later after debate over performances finally comes to a close. With all the excitement, the facilitator has to take a break to the restroom, and then brew some coffee.
It is now 3:00 p.m. and you still do not know the purpose of the meeting. The facilitator begins presenting a large, text-heavy PowerPoint presentation on the video screen in front of you. The presentation is titled, ironically, “Productivity: Making the best use of time.” You feel as though you are in a bad dream, and your eyes begin to roll into the back of your head as the words are read directly off each and every screen, word for word. Finally, 45 minutes later, the presentation ends. The facilitator opens the floor for discussion.
Sally and Henry begin heatedly debating a topic that was brought up in the presentation and their conversation quickly veers off in another direction. You jump in to try and help steer the two back on topic and table the debate for offline discussion. However, John interrupts you mid-sentence to give his opinion on the matter. And the debate ensues for another 20 minutes.
Finally, the facilitator decides to conclude the meeting without soliciting any more questions, ignoring further feedback, and dismisses the attendees without any further instruction.
It is now after 4 p.m. and the big group arrival is only 30 minutes away. Let’s hope your team has finished up the final preparations.
Have you ever had a similar type of meeting disorder? What would you have done differently?
First, we must diagnose the problem. What went wrong in this meeting? Let’s take a look.
- Meeting notice was delivered late;
- meeting purpose was vague;
- no location provided in the meeting invitation;
- no agenda provided;
- the facilitator was late and unprepared;
- the facilitator spent several minutes talking about unrelated topics;
- the facilitator took a break shortly after arriving to the meeting;
- ineffective PowerPoint presentation;
- conflict was not handled properly; and
- meeting was concluded with no direction.
Below is your prescription for healthy and productive meetings.
• Plan with purpose. Be prepared.
- Should you meet in person or by conference call?
- Are you delivering a message or is brainstorming and decision making required?
• Ahead of the meeting, prepare the participants.
- Identify participants and roles;
- prepare an agenda of topics and allocate time limits for discussions;
- inform the participants of the meeting date, time and location in advance;
- plan for audio/visual needs;
- model the mindset—set a theme and create leverage for creative thinking (allows participants to develop ideas and suggestions prior to the meeting); and
arrive early to your meeting and have all technical needs set up and in working order before the meeting starts.
• During the meeting, facilitate with finesse.
- Always refer to the agenda;
- set ground rules (punctuality, turn cellphones off, interruptions, etc.);
- introduce topics and clarify roles of participants;
- manage conflict objectively, timely, and with respect (discuss unresolved issues offline);
- record observations and ideas (minutes, whiteboards, flipcharts, etc.);
- keep presentations minimal and organized to key topics and use attention-grabbing methods;
- ask questions, solicit feedback and engage your audience; and
summarize and confirm decisions and assignments verbally, and in writing.
• Respect for others.
- Start on time and end on time;
- discuss non-related work topics offline;
- keep track of time;
- keep discussions moving;
- do not interrupt;
- allow everyone to participate;
- maintain confidentiality; and
thank attendees for their participation.
• Follow up and develop action plans.
- After the meeting, reiterate assignments, next steps and goals;
- share meeting minutes; and
provide participants with a meeting evaluation form. This feedback will provide a baseline for improvement and help generate ideas for future meetings.
You have just been prescribed five basic remedies for facilitating more productive, healthy meetings. By following this prescription, you will take preventive measures to avoid the debilitating symptoms of DMDD. If you are already experiencing such symptoms, then follow the five remedies above for each meeting and repeat often as needed. You will find yourself on your way to meeting recovery.
Jim Hartigan, chief business development officer and partner, joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.
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