Meetings themselves are not the ones that waste time, but the people who participate in them. It is true that the business world sins of excessive ‘reunitis’. Many are convened and the cost is excessive for the organizations. To get an idea of the magnitude, in the United States about 11 million meetings are held daily and the cost involved with respect to a company is 10% of the cost of its staff. But it is also true that many of these meetings are necessary and unavoidable.
So what can you do? It is essential to plan everything in detail. First of all, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether to convene a meeting is the most appropriate. And how can you know?
WHAT IS THE OBJETIVE?
You must take into account what you want to achieve, that is, what the objective is. If you pretend, for example, to distribute information, you can choose between the meeting, the memorandum or the report. If it is about resolving an internal conflict, it is better to call the affected ones one by one to pave the way. A majority decision can be obtained by calling a meeting to request a vote by show of hands, by correspondence or by telephone, if the voters know in advance the information relevant to the matter. But it is also possible that it will be necessary to debate it. In that case, instructions can be given through a manual, but the nature of the topic may require an explanatory meeting.
In the case that it is intended, for example, to influence the opinions of others, it may be appropriate to convene a meeting or, perhaps, it is better to try it in individual conversations. A well-written and illustrated proposal can be as effective in capturing a client as a verbal presentation. On the other hand, if the spirit of the team is to be encouraged, the meeting is perhaps the best instrument.
AND WHAT IS THE COST?
Another aspect that you should evaluate previously is the cost of the meeting. When making the decision to call it, it is advisable to compare its cost with that of possible alternatives. The only case in which it is possible to ignore this data is when the meeting becomes essential and inevitable.
One of the formulas to calculate the cost is to consider the salary of the assistants and the value of the time spent (the average duration is usually two hours). Thus, you can multiply the time by the number of attendees and assess it according to the hourly wage of each of them.
If it is not possible to answer affirmatively to the following questions, the meeting will be a waste of time: Do I have time to prepare it? Will they have time to prepare the other assistants? and will they be available and willing to attend.
After following the steps above, you finally decide that calling a meeting is the best option. What should you do?
- Determine what the agenda will be. That is, what do you want to deal with and what people are indispensable in that meeting?
- Inform the attendees of why and what for. That is, you must make a personalized call where you explain to each of the attendees the objectives that are intended to be covered in the meeting, the work plan that will be carried out, who is going to lead that meeting, what are you calling for and what do you expect from him?
- Prepare the contents that will be discussed during the meeting. That is, everyone should do the homework very well, not only the one who convenes but also the one who attends. Many people go to the meetings waiting for a bit what. The error there is already starting, because people do not know why it is being convened.
THAT DOES NOT APPLY. STRAIGHT TO THE POINT!
Another aspect that you should consider is to control the meeting so that the previously established agenda is fulfilled, avoiding all those topics that are not related to it and do not proceed. My experience tells me that we too often get out of the goal of the meeting.
In the same line of importance is the fact of making a summary of everything that is being discussed and discussed at the meeting: There must appear the commitments adopted. People are a little leery of making summaries, so compromise entails. And finally, and also essential for the meetings to be effective and profitable, a detailed, introspective and individual analysis of everything that has happened in that meeting to know what has gone well and badly. This last aspect is very scarce.
GOLDEN RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL PLANNING
With the duties done. This is how you should go to a meeting. Improvisation can be effective for some activities, but never for a meeting.
- The key to a successful meeting is for everyone to come with their homework. Our role as participants – be it the organizer or a guest – is to try to foresee what we are going to need for the development of the meeting and what they expect from us. In many meetings, you hear that: Well, the data of that subject I have in the office. Each one must do an exercise of foresight, of analysis in the future of what they will need, of what is going to be required and that also includes asking oneself if their presence in the meeting is necessary or not.
- ‘Check-in’ and ‘check-out’. Ideally, the organizer or head of the meeting should make a small presentation explaining the reasons for the call and open a turn to speak so that each one says what they expect from it. Attendees should do a little check-in to tell others why they are there and with what spirit they participate, that is, what they expect from the call. And also a check-out to find out if your expectations have been met.
- Time is running out. The attention stops being sustained and attentive after 45 minutes. After that time, due to fatigue, the participant stops listening and attending. Beyond an hour with the same activity is counterproductive and stops being effective. The meeting can be extended over time as long as the themes or activity are varied (ie, taking breaks). If from that time you do not offer people interesting or interesting things disconnect.
- The Marx’s cabin. What is the ideal number of attendees? Is it better odd or even number? It is true that sometimes it is sought to adopt certain decisions being odd to tip the balance towards the majority. But it is not a good way to make decisions, because the opinion of the minority will always remain. If what you are looking for is to adopt a decision that encompasses everyone and in which you are represented in the face of commitment, you should give equal and, in any case, it would be better par, because that is where you can see the true wealth of the opinions. The odd one would be good for stuck meetings or with little mature assistants to decide.
Plan, that something remains. Do not forget that there may always be unforeseen events, but if you have everything tied down a priori there will be fewer surprises. Remember never to lose the reference of what is the objective of the meeting, follow the letter of the agenda that you have previously fixed and encourage everyone to participate.
- Being late. You must set an example and be the first to be in the room enabled for the meeting. Do not allow the impunity of the attendees and criticize them in public so that the unpunctual is aware of their error. To prevent unforeseen events and delays check beforehand that everything works: the cooling system of the room, the projection equipment (if you are going to use it), the snack, documentation…
- Do not follow the order of the meeting. You must be relentless in this regard. If you have previously established 4 or 5 points to be discussed, those should be discussed and not discussed during the meeting. Cut off any intervention that moves away from the agenda and inform them that it may be the subject of another meeting. The most important topics should be placed at the beginning of the meeting. That will help you gain legitimacy for upcoming occasions. As a rule, usually begins with the most inconsequential, leaving the most important to the end, when the forces are already weakened.
- Try to deal with many topics. It is preferable to design a short meeting with few topics to try than trying to overload the meeting. Endless meetings are less productive than short meetings. What number of topics is appropriate? It depends on the complexity of what is involved.
- Do not allow different opinions. To make the meeting richer in content, you must allow everyone to participate by contributing ideas -even encouraging those who are reluctant-, but as long as they are constructive. Do not tolerate the outputs of tone or ideas that attack any of the participants.
- Eternize the meeting because you do not remember what you want. Related to the previous one, you must prevent the meeting from ending in agony. You can go to the meeting with preconceived ideas and defend them, but from there to impose them by showing authority is not acceptable.
- Let groups be created. The meeting has to follow an order of presentation of the topic to be discussed and turn speaking, respecting the speaker without forming alternative groups that cloud the meeting.
- Do not take note of the commitments made. The meetings could be recorded and then a summary of the agreed commitments, but sometimes it is not possible due to lack of material and in others due to lack of time. The best is to let each one make their own notes and share them together.
- Not to fulfill the acquired commitments. The agreements are to fulfill them. One mistake is to ignore them because we do not like them.