Time is precious. Meetings are helpful some of the time.
Meetings can take a great deal of time and do not always result in an outcome that is worth the effort. In fact, many meetings have the possibility of disturbing a plan that you’ve been working on for weeks or months. Here are a few ideas on how to get more out of meetings, or at least avoid wasting time.
1) Set a time limit. Try for a 20 minute meeting, 30 minutes max. Focus on one topic and try to make sure the action items are captured and agreed upon.
2) Set an agenda. If it is your meeting, you should have topics prepared. You can add topics and request additional topics up front. Feel free to stop people from having the discussion while you are setting the topics. Get the agenda set and then go.
3) Be prepared to pull the ripcord. Sometimes it just happens. The conversation is going around in circles. You make several attempts to get something achieved but they all fail. In this situation it is easy to have feelings get hurt, or create massive discord with one or all of the people in the room. That’s when you should try to close the meeting. It’s not easy, and I’m working on this idea myself, but if you can recognize that a meeting is not going well early on, here are a couple of ideas on how and what to say:
- Ask a colleague for a quick sidebar – leave the room if you have to. See how they feel about the discussion. Is there a problem you don’t know about? Do they want to continue the discussion?
- Make a list of questions on the topic. Once the list is done, suggest a future date to work on answering the questions.
- Be firm. “I’ve been listening and trying to make some headway here, but it sounds like we are not seeing this situation the same way. I know we are all busy, so maybe we should give ourselves a break, get back to other work and plan to meet again tomorrow or next week?”
…And then you always have the option to not meet again.