Meetings are boring, but surviving them seems to be a right of passage in the American workforce. Part of your job description could probably be listed as “endure endless meetings” – even when you are the manager running the show. Meetings do not have to follow the same stale formula without any deviation. You can make the exception to the rule through mixing extra planning and liberal doses of creative thinking into these office gatherings.
The simplest antidote to a boring meeting is to get everyone involved in the discussion. People become more invested in a meeting when they feel like their presence matters.
Involve the entire group in a meeting and you can enhance the quality of decisions. A study done at Cal-State Northridge found that group discussions are effective in making more information available, generating more ideas, reducing individual bias and producing a decision with fewer errors.
It can start with taking attention away from the person leading the meeting and turning the spotlight back on the group. Encourage people to speak out with ideas and suggestions. Ask open-ended questions. Breakout into group discussions. Give everyone in the meeting a chance to get involved in the decision-making process.
Avoid information overload
Meetings can feel overwhelming if there is too much information to take in all at once. You can prevent this problem by setting an agenda ahead of a scheduled meeting. The agenda can guide what things are discussed in the meeting and offer a road map for the direction of the meeting.
It helps to tackle one issue at a time. Multitasking can serve a good purpose in some situations, but can be a negative influence in a meeting. WebMD notes that the average person can actually lose time shifting between two tasks and take longer to accomplish each task.
One meeting cannot focus on every problem at hand. Set priorities and tackle issues one at a time in order of importance. When things are more specific, it can allow for shorter meetings and better results.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on the issues that are most pertinent to the people in the meeting. This will make it easier to solve problems because you can involve those same people in creating a solution. It allows them to take ownership of the meeting and become more engaged in driving the discussion in positive directions.
Make it count
Meetings represent a significant investment of both time and money. There is no excuse for having a meeting that does not accomplish a tangible purpose.
Make each meeting count by following up on the decisions made in the meeting. The founder of GoDaddy, Bob Parsons, notes that effective leadership requires always moving forward. A leader, according to Parsons, should never stop investing, improving or doing something new because a lack of improvement causes organizations to die.
When you solve problems in meetings, apply those solutions outside the conference room. A meeting that produces measurable results is not a waste of time. Measure progress and offer positive reinforcement to the whole staff when goals are met. It will reinforce the original meeting’s value.
Photo used from Flikr by Robert Couse-Baker