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How to avoid death by meeting

I have yet to encounter a professional who is super jazzed to go to a meeting. The dreaded work meeting is unfortunately, a necessary evil. The downside is most are run ineffectively. The worst part is that the solution of ineffective meetings is to...add more meetings, and the cycle continues.

Rather than adding more meetings - the latest stat is that 29% of a professional's time is spent in meetings; the real solution is to just fix the meetings that you are having!

Consider this approach when planning and facilitating your next meeting, to avoid meeting burnout and increase others' confidence in your professional capabilities as a meeting leader:

1. Determine the audience & keep it small: Step one is figure out the right people that need to be in the room to make decisions (we'll touch on this key point in a minute). The challenge most people/companies face is the desire to include everyone.

While the desire to create inclusivity is noble, it can lead to the exact opposite. When meetings are so large, meetings can often have the exact opposite impact, as meeting facilitators can often lose sight of social cues in the meeting - the introvert that is unheard, more senior people take over, or the disengaged check-out because it's easy for it to go "unnoticed."

Large meetings can do the exact opposite of creating a "feeling of team." Sticking to the decision-makers and leveraging other mediums to provide updates or gain voice prior to meetings, are likely better strategies for inclusivity in the long-run.

2. Agenda & meeting objectives are everything: There is a reason agendas are so critical. Agendas, when coupled with meeting objectives, are the powerhouse way to kick-off a meeting. The trick with setting agendas and objectives is that they need to be direct and specific.

For example, a meeting objective could be "Finalize project X delivery timeline." To drive that meeting objective, consider agenda items with direct questions that drive the objective, "When will the project be complete?" This tends to be more effective than an agenda item that is more general such as, "Project X timeline discussion."

3. Limit your meeting time: This one is simple - shorter meetings are more productive. Human nature tends to adapt to the expectation in front of them. If you have shorter meetings as the expectation, be surprised at how a team can rise to that occasion in accomplishing key decisions - especially if you properly set the agenda and objectives upfront.

4. Summarize & follow-up: So many items get discussed in meetings, it's easy to forget what was decided or the actions needed. Always leave time at the end of a meeting to summarize the plan and follow-up with attendees with action items. Yes... follow-up with action items and owners. Accountability matters!

5. Never have meetings for updates: This one is my favorite. Yet it's the most broken rule. Never have meetings for information that could have been communicated via email or some other channel. There is nothing worse than leaving an hour meeting and your first reaction is, "Well, that could have been an email." When you keep your audience small to the decision-makers, you should be spending the time in the meeting actually making decisions.

Please share your thoughts with us and the Shine community on meeting management below - How do you avoid death by meeting? What are your favorite meeting management tips?

Shine On, Laura


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