A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I have a great position with the company I work for. However, recently, due to a number of changes taking place, I find myself spending more and more time in meetings. Most
of these meetings are a complete waste of time, yet no one says a thing.
I am looking for ideas on how to execute meetings more productively. Any ideas you or your readers have will be appreciated.
- Stressed out by meetings
Sue Says: Not only are many meetings a waste of time, but they are not always cost effective either. Often the biggest expense, which is the cost of the people who attend, is given the
least amount of attention.
Productive meetings don't just happen, they are the result of a well-designed process, and many meetings miss their mark due to a lack of preparation, according to Diane Brewster-Norman, who
helped create the Franklin Covey "Meeting Advantage" seminar. For many people, preparation means merely setting an agenda, however, successful meetings require a bit more. Meetings
often fail because leaders don't define the purpose of the meeting, even for themselves. A clear purpose statement guides a meeting. Without a clear purpose, achieving results is almost
Equally important is to determine whether the costs involved justify the meeting, or if you could achieve your purpose with a different option.
Brewster-Norman suggests answering the following questions when planning a meeting to help determine if the meeting is justified. If you can answer yes to most of the questions, your meeting
probably is justified.
- Does the total cost of the meeting justify the advantages of holding it?
- Are the people who can make decisions available to attend?
- Is the timing right?
- Is the purpose of the meeting clear?
- Is the necessary information available?
- Have alternatives to holding a meeting such as distributing information, using the telephone or meeting with only two or three key people been considered?
Try scheduling meetings when most participants are at their best. Early on any day, midmorning and mid-afternoon usually are good times. Avoid scheduling meetings first thing in the morning,
the first morning or the last afternoon of the work week, the last hour of any work day or the first hour after lunch.
Active, appropriate participation is necessary to accomplish your objectives. Unfortunately, meetings often are beleaguered by people who either participate too much or don't participate
enough. Getting appropriate participation is key to a successful meeting. Many common problem's associated with meetings could be avoided simply by establishing a code of conduct for you
meetings. This way, everyone operates from a common set of expectations. Brewster-Norman offers the following sample code of conduct established to make meetings more productive:
- Begin and end on time
- Focus all comments on agenda items
- Do not interrupt while others are talking
- Stick to one conversation and avoid making side comments
- Turn off all pagers and cell phones
- Everyone come prepared to participate
- No unscheduled speeches
- Initiate no personal attacks
And finally, if you prepare well and get full participation, but fail to follow through after the meeting, you run the risk of not achieving your purpose. The real work continues after the
meeting is over.
I hope you find value in some of these ideas and that your future meetings will be less stressful and more productive.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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